Rafael Nadal did his part by defeating fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, 7-5, 6-2, 6-0, Tuesday in a French Open quarterfinal. Earlier in the day, the top-seeded Roger Federer did his, to scant surprise, easing past unseeded Victor Hanescu of Romania, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.
And the result is the birthday present that the 18-year-old Nadal has longed for since the draw for the French Open was unveiled: a semifinal meeting with Federer, the world's No. 1 player, on Friday -- the day Nadal turns 19.
The players have met twice, with Nadal taking a two-set victory in 2004, and Federer claiming a five-setter in Miami in April. Both of those matches were on hard courts. Friday's meeting marks their first on clay, where Nadal has been without peer this season.
"It's going to be a very hard match," Ferrer said Tuesday, "because Federer is in good shape, but Nadal is at an extraordinary moment. He's really together physically."
Federer, the tournament's top seed, hasn't lost a set en route to what will be his first French Open semifinal. His confidence is sky high, and he has made no secret that he covets the title. Having won Wimbledon and the Australian and U.S. opens in 2004, the French would give him a career Grand Slam.
"That would be definitely a dream come true, you know," Federer said Tuesday. "It would mean that I won them all. At 23, 24 -- that would be quite something."
Nadal is appropriately respectful of Federer's achievements, having watched portions of his victories here over Fernando Gonzalez and Carlos Moya. "He is showing really that he deserves to be number one," Nadal said.
But the young Mallorcan gives himself a 50-50 chance on Friday, when the surface will be the slow, European red clay.
Against Ferrer, Nadal's shot-making induced cheers from the capacity crowd at Suzanne Lenglen Court that could be heard clear across the Roland Garros tennis complex. Serving at 4-5 in the first set, Nadal faced three set points and responded with perhaps the best passing shot of his young life -- a forehand winner that ripped the back corner of the court.
"An incredible shot," Ferrer conceded. "Rafa has a very potent ball, and the ball is very high. It's very hard to win a shot on Rafa. To win a point, you really have to go for it."
Nadal's power and stamina have become something of an obsession among journalists.
Asked one reporter on Tuesday: "You're very strong! People wonder what you eat. What sort of regime? Is it the Mediterranean diet?"
The 6-foot, 165-pound Nadal seemed puzzled that anyone would possibly care what a teenager ate.
"Well," he said, blushing, "I can't really say. It's not the Mediterranean diet or anything. I eat just normally. If you give me olives, I eat olives. Yesterday, I ate Haagen-Dazs ice cream."