At 36 years old, Nadal is now the oldest winner of Roland Garros ever. The reflections beforehand were not very promising for Ruud. With only three defeats ever on the ground brick in Paris (Robin Söderling 2009 and Novak Djokovic 2015 and 2021) and a winning streak of 13-0 in Roland Garros finals, the Norwegian had to conjure up something very special on Sunday afternoon. A 14th (!) title was at stake for Nadal in Paris. Bizarre numbers, considering that Pete Sampras has won a total of 14 grand slams. And the American is considered one of the best tennis players ever. At least, until the Big Three appeared on the scene.
The Spaniard played his thirtieth grand slam final, Djokovic and Federer each played one more. Djokovic won the Australian Open nine times, Federer was the best at Wimbledon eight times.
Djokovic was last year’s best at a grand slam at Wimbledon, Federer’s last grand slam title dates from 2018. More than four years ago, he defeated Marin Cilic from Croatia in the final of the Australian Open. Behind the trio is Sampras on 14 grand slam titles, followed by Roy Emerson with 12 and Rod Laver and Björn Borg with 11.
The record holder grand slam titles started the match excellently and Ruud immediately broke in the first set. A very mediocre service game gave Ruud a break back, but he then failed to keep his own service: 3-1. The Norwegian struggled to play his opponent’s high topspin balls, as so many suffer from at Roland Garros against the Spaniard. The set win was therefore no longer in danger: 6-3 in 28 minutes.
Rafael Nadal puts in for one of his topspin balls.
Too few weapons
In the second company, Nadal immediately got three break points on Ruud’s service, but was unable to use them. Suddenly the Norwegian got into his game and managed to break the Spaniard on love: 3-1. A moment for ‘Rafa’ to step up a gear, because there is hardly anyone who can beat him in terms of mentality. The break the game after that was of course immediately a fact. He rumbled on to the next break and so the win in the second set also beckoned. Ruud simply had too few weapons in his house to really make it difficult for his opponent. With another break and thus five games in a row it was again 6-3.
In set 3 there was a break chance for Nadal quite quickly, who was and is simply the better player on clay: 2-0. From the moment he actually led 3-1 in the second set, Ruud didn’t win a game anymore. In the third set it suddenly went hard and it was 5-0 for Nadal. Ruud was still allowed to serve, but against his better judgment. It became 6-0 and game, set and match† A 14th Roland Garros title and the 22nd Grand Slam title for the Spaniard!
Casper Ruud is disappointed.
Chronic foot injury
The fact that Nadal was in the final could also be called a small miracle. The Spaniard again suffered from a chronic foot injury prior to the tournament, which forced him to end his season early last year. It sparked speculation about Nadal’s possible absence from Roland Garros.
But he was there anyway, the question was what shape he would be in. ‘Rafa’ – in the ‘tough’ half of the draw – easily defeated Botic van de Zandschulp in the third round on the way, when he came across Felix Auger-Aliassime. It was only in the fifth set that he managed to shake off the tough Canadian. The super clash with Djokovic (the early final also called beforehand) was next on the roll. In a beautiful fight – which lasted until 01.15 in the night – he managed to outwit the Serb. Where did Nadal get it all from?
Last time ever on clay at Roland Garros?
Alexander Zverev then waited in the semifinals. The German pushed the Majorcan to the limit and after three hours of play, the second set had not even come to an end, until Zverev suffered a catastrophe: he broke his ankle and had to stop the fight.
Of course, Nadal was happy to go to the final, but he also felt very sorry for Zverev. Prior to the final, 36-year-old Nadal was asked whether he would rather have a new overall win or a new foot? A new foot was his answer. The latter will be difficult, but he took care of the former himself on June 5, 2022. Whether he will ever play on the clay of Paris again remains to be seen.