PARIS (AFP) - Rafael Nadal insisted that video-games rival and close friend David Ferrer deserves his chance at a Grand Slam title, and anybody who claims otherwise is ignorant of the sport.
Nadal will become the first man in history to win the same Grand Slam tournament eight times if he beats his Spanish compatriot in Sunday's final at Roland Garros.
With a Paris record of 58 wins from 59 matches, Nadal is the overwhelming favourite but has backed his 31-year-old rival, who is making his first Grand Slam final.
"Tennis is a fair sport, and if somebody deserves to win titles, to be in the finals of a Grand Slam, is David," said Nadal.
"It's like And Murray in the US Open. He deserved to be the winner of a Grand Slam because he was in that position to be the winner a lot of times. So if somebody deserve to win a Grand Slam was Andy.
"Somebody deserves to be in the final of a Grand Slam it is David. His level of tennis is higher every year. He's always playing at a very high level and very often."
Nadal will take a 19-4 career record over Ferrer into the final with 16 of those wins coming on clay.
Ferrer's only win over Nadal on the surface was back in 2004 at Stuttgart, the pair's first meeting when the seven-time French Open champion was just 16. Nadal has also won all three of their meetings this year.
Despite his overwhelming dominance, the 27-year-old Nadal believes that Ferrer, who has the lowest profile of the world's top five men, does not get the respect he deserves.
"The person who will not respect David as one of the greatest players of the world - and not for one year, for a long time - is because that person doesn't know nothing about tennis. That's the real thing," said Nadal.
Ferrer has backed up his Paris threat by not dropping a set and spending six hours fewer than Nadal on the court.