Rafael Nadal groused last week that he was playing so badly he might soon be back home fishing in Mallorca.
Then came a transformation. Nadal stood at the net following his latest French Open win wearing that familiar crooked grin, clay caked on his arm, his leg and even the back of his shirt, landlocked and loving it.
The fish were spared, and Nadal has lately enjoyed smooth sailing at Roland Garros heading into his semifinal showdown Friday against top-ranked Novak Djokovic.
After falling behind in each of his first three matches, Nadal has won 12 consecutive sets. He's 57-1 at Roland Garros and on the verge of becoming the first man to win eight titles at the same Grand Slam event.
''I really am playing better here,'' he said. ''I said I needed to make a change. I was confident that I can do it, and I did.''
And so he's ready to renew his rivalry with Djokovic. The winner will play for the title Sunday against No. 4-seeded David Ferrer or No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who meet i...