His practices have been getting better; his sore back has improved; and, more importantly, his forehand again has that rocket quality.
"Important thing is that I played at very high level," Nadal said after bludgeoning Murray. "I played probably my best match in the clay-court season today."
A glum Murray allowed that it was the best he'd seen Rafa in 20 career meetings, which is saying something. The speed with which Nadal accelerated into his shots, the power of his serve and forehand, left Murray dispirited. After beating Gulbis, Djokovic said he watched some of the match.
"He's been elevating his game as the tournament progresses," Djokovic said of Rafa, "and he's starting to feel at his best when he needs to.
"It's not the first time that happens in his case."
Djokovic, more than anyone, knows what he's up against. He'll be supremely motivated to win his first title at the French Open and complete the career Grand Slam. He is also aware that the winner here will leave with the No. 1 ranking.
The critical factor could be his physical condition. Djokovic looked disheveled after the Gulbis match and, to beat Rafa, he'll need to be at his very best.
Then again, if Rafa is at full strength, it might not matter.