Rafael Nadal paid homage to countryman Seve Ballesteros, who died early Saturday, by wearing a black, stick-on ribbon during his semifinal match in the Madrid Open. Then the world No. 1 honored Spain's golfing great by continuing his dominance on clay, beating Roger Federer in a three-set thriller, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3.
The match began with Nadal and Federer standing at attention at the net while a video tribute to Ballesteros played on the stadium's screens. Nadal wiped tears from his eyes while watching.
After Nadal's win he spoke about the golf great, whom he had befriended in recent years:
"It's a sad day for Spain and the world of sport in general. He was one of the best golfers of all time and one of the best athletes this country has produced. He was a pioneer. ...
"He is irreplaceable ... as a person and an athlete and was an example for all of us."
Nadal will play Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final. On the line in the matchup between the world's top two players are Rafa's 37-match winning streak on clay and Djokovic's 31-match winning streak to begin the season.