The Spaniard dominated Sunday’s final and won 11 games in a row in the second and third sets to clinch his 22nd Grand Slam title – two more than Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, who topped the all-time men’s list.
The victory also means that the 36-year-old Nadal, who won his first French Open title 17 years ago, becomes the oldest Roland Garros men’s singles champion.
“Personally, it is very difficult for me to describe the feelings that I have,” Nadal said in an on-court interview after the game. “It’s something I never really believed in, that I would be here at 36, be competitive again, play another final on the most important court of my career – that means a lot to me.”
It was a case of master versus student at Roland Garros on Sunday with Ruud, who has been training at the Rafael Nadal Academy in Mallorca since 2018 and admired Nadal as he advanced through tennis, appearing in his first Grand Slam final.
But the 23-year-old lost to Nadal and it was the first time they faced each other.
Leading 3-1 early in the second set, Ruud saw the fight elude him and failed to register a game in the final set.
He later paid tribute to Nadal, saying in an on-court interview, “We all know what a champion you are and today I have to feel what it’s like to play against you in the final. the first victim – I know there have been many before.”
The victory over Ruud confirms the title at the Australian Open, which he won in January. Nadal won the first two Grand Slams in a calendar year for the first time in his career.
He got off to a fast start in Sunday’s final and took a 4-1 lead in the first set after knocking off Ruud’s cross twice.
Nadal’s backhand tactic against Ruud proved effective, but he faltered early in the second set – first with breakpoint squandering in the first game and then when he was crushed by love in the fourth game.
However, any momentum Ruud could muster was short-lived as his day fell apart.
Nadal, hampered by a persistent foot injury in preparation for the tournament, seemed to move well around the court throughout the match and began to dominate to win the next five games in the second set.
Then in the third set, which only lasted 30 minutes, Ruud barely got into traffic.
A powerful shot from the left of Nadal completed the victory and the historic 14th title at Roland Garros.
But will it be the last?
“I don’t know what might happen in the future, but I will continue to fight to try to continue,” Nadal told the assembled on the Philippe-Chatrier court to enthusiastic applause.