PARIS (Reuters) - A Roland Garros final against Rafa Nadal should have been the highlight of Spanish warrior David Ferrer's career. Instead what he got was a "strange" match featuring driving rain, invaded by "strange" people "without clothes on" and he will now "strangely" be ranked above Nadal despite finishing second best.
At least it wasn't a dull day in the office for a man who was contesting his first grand slam showpiece at the ripe old age of 31.
Very few people had given Ferrer a chance of overturning a 16-match losing streak on red dirt against the greatest ever claycourter but if the fans who had turned up at Philippe Chatrier Court expected a brutal slaughter, the Spaniard showed them his worth.
In an astonishing fifth game of the second set, which lasted 10 minutes and featured four deuces, four break points and an incredible 29-shot lung-busting rally, Ferrer went toe-to-toe with Nadal.
For all of Ferrer's effort, he could not stop Nadal moving 4-1 ahead and he then became a bystander when a flare-wielding, bare-chested protester ambushed the final by jumping on to court.
As the man charged towards the seven-times champion with a red flare that left a streak of billowing smoke trailing on court, a startled and shocked Nadal darted for cover while his friend struggled to hold back the chuckles.
"Today was strange, no?," Ferrer said about the final that was interrupted a couple of times by a number of protesters.
"The people (protesters) chanting, one person without clothes on in the court, with one bengalas (flare).
"It's funny. It's good for everybody. Rafael, he was scared a little bit," he added breaking into laughter.
On court, though, it was no laughing matter for Ferrer who never looked like upsetting the rampaging Nadal and denying him a record eighth French Open trophy.
Despite his 6-3 6-2 6-3 defeat, Ferrer was at pains to point out that the match was not as one-sided as the scoreline suggested and things might have been different if the elements had not conspired against him.
"This match was closer than you might think if you only look at the score. It's always difficult to have a winning shot with the conditions that were so heavy," said fourth seed Ferrer, who had reached the final without dropping a set.
"To beat Rafael on clay, I need to find anti-Rafa Nadal tactics. I need to play more aggressive. I need to finish the points at the net and to play my best tennis to beat him.
"But when the court is slower, it's very difficult."
What was even more difficult for the fans to understand, however, was that Ferrer would leapfrog Nadal in the new rankings despite claiming only two minor titles this year compared to his rival's haul.
That was of little consolation to Ferrer.
"It's strange, no? I lost the final against Rafael but tomorrow I am going to be No.4 and him No. 5," he shrugged.
"If I would have preferred to win here and to stay No. 5."
(Editing by Toby Davis)