Nadal wins record-breaking 14th French Open, but leg pains cast doubt on future

Rafael Nadal took the lead to defeat Kasper Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in the French Open final on Sunday to claim his 14th Roland Garros title and 22nd Grand Slam title overall, adding to the two records he already had.

Nadal’s victory came two days after his 36th birthday, making him the oldest title holder in the history of the clay court tournament.

Ruud led 3-1 in the second set, a deficit that prompted Nadal to level up as he won the last 11 games.

Nadal played so crisply and cleanly, scoring more than twice as many winners as Ruud, 37 to 16. Nadal also made fewer unforced errors, only 16 to Ruud’s 26.

When it ended with a backhand from Nadal, he threw the racket into the red clay he loves so much and covered his face with the bandaged fingers of both hands.

The first triumph of the Spaniard in Paris came in 2005, when he was 19 years old. No man or woman has won the singles trophy at any major event more than his 14 in Paris, and no man has won more Grand Slam titles than Nadal.

He’s two ahead of rivals Roger Federer, who hasn’t played for nearly a year after a series of knee surgeries, and Novak Djokovic, who missed the Australian Open in January because he wasn’t vaccinated against COVID-19 and lost to Nadal at Roland. Garros.

Given his age and, more worryingly, the chronic pain in his left leg that has plagued him for years, Nadal has repeatedly said in recent days that he can never be sure if every match on Philippe Chatrier’s court can be his. last.

Although he vowed to “keep fighting to keep going”, Nadal said he might not continue playing unless a permanent solution to his leg pain was found.

“As I said before, under the current circumstances, I cannot and do not want to continue playing,” the Spanish champion said in a post-match press conference, explaining that during the French Open, he was given “several injections before each match,” to stun his aching nerves.

But judging by the quality of his play right now, Nadal doesn’t seem to have much reason to leave, given that he’s worked his way past four top-10 French Open opponents.

On the way to the coveted title, Nadal beat the first racket of the world. 9 Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round, no. 1 Djokovic in the quarterfinals, no. 3 Alexander Zverev, who stopped out with a foot injury, in the semi-finals, and then No. 1. 8 Ruud.

Nadal improved his record to 14-0 in the Roland Garros final and 112-3 overall in his favorite tournament.

Two Grand Slams behind, two ahead

Despite everything he’s already accomplished, Nadal has done something he’s never done before: he’s halfway to a calendar-year Grand Slam thanks to the Australian Open and French Open titles in the same season.

Ruud is a 23-year-old Norwegian native who competed in a Grand Slam final for the first time.

So far, he hasn’t even played in a major quarter-final, but after the final he seemed to be in a good mood, jokingly telling Nadal that he “wasn’t his first victim”.

Ruud, who considers Nadal his idol and trained at his tennis academy in Mallorca, admits to having watched all of Nadal’s past finals in Paris on TV.

The two have played countless practice sets together, and nothing more than the right to brag is at stake. Nadal usually won them, and Ruud joked the other day that it was because he was trying to be a polite guest.

The two never met in real matches until Sunday, when the championship, money, ranking points, prestige and a piece of history were at stake.

And Nadal demonstrated, as has often happened, why he is known as the King of Clay – and one of the greatest players in history.

Now he can put this newest Coupe des Mousquetaires alongside the trophies he collected at Roland Garros in 2005-08, 2010-14 and 2017-20.

He has also won the US Open four times, the Australian Open and Wimbledon twice each.