The grey, dank and chilly atmosphere that greeted the players on Philippe Chatrier Court was certainly not to Nadal's liking but he soon warmed to the task of grinding down an opponent whom he had trounced in their last 16 claycourt clashes.
A wild forehand from Ferrer handed Nadal the first break of the match for a 2-1 lead but the fourth seed hit back immediately by employing some astute baseline tactics.
A brilliant backhand down the line winner after he had lured Nadal into the net with a dropshot brought up break point.
He then engaged the seven-times champion into a lengthy rally which Nadal ended by ramming a backhand into the net to relinquish his serve.
Watched on by the fastest man on earth, Olympic 100m and 200m champion Usain Bolt, who followed proceedings behind a pair of dark glasses despite not a ray of sun in sight, Nadal went a break up again in the seventh game.
He outwitted the 31-year-old Ferrer with a backhand passing shot winner to go 4-3 ahead but was in danger of surrendering the advantage in the next game when a misjudged lob floated long to hand his rival break point.
A blistering forehand winner took care of that problem and Ferrer meekly surrendered his next service game by slicing a backhand into the net to lose his first set at this year's tournament.