05 June 2022

Rafael Nadal continues French Open dominance with ruthless 14th title success

05 June 2022

Rafael Nadal reclaimed his crown as the king of clay with a dominant victory over Casper Ruud at the French Open.

Roland Garros royalty returned to the throne on Jubilee weekend as Nadal roared to a 14th title courtesy of a 6-3 6-3 6-0 win over first-time finalist Ruud.

Nadal is two days past his 36th birthday and suffering with a chronic foot problem, which has prompted rumours of retirement.

But he brushed aside Norwegian eighth seed Ruud to claim a 22nd grand slam victory to take him two ahead of great rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer at the top of the all-time male rankings.

As expected the quarter-final win over Djokovic, the outgoing champion, proved Nadal’s biggest hurdle on his way to the ‘decimocuarto’.

By contrast, it was a walk in the Paris sunshine against Ruud, 17 years to the day since the Spaniard won his first title here.

Such is Nadal’s longevity he is now frequently coming up against players who idolised him as children.

Ruud, 23, is one of those, having been in the crowd when Nadal won his eighth title, against David Ferrer in 2013.

The Norwegian also trained at Nadal’s academy in Majorca, regularly playing practice sets with his hero.

This was their first competitive meeting, although the first set had all the intensity of a knock-about in the Spanish sun.

Rafael Nadal on his way to victory (Christophe Ena/AP) (AP)

It was a rude awakening for the underdog when he was broken straight away, and although Nadal let him off the hook with a loose service game, the opening set was soon in the bag.

A double fault gave Ruud a break to love for a 3-1 lead in the second, but he was unable to press home the advantage as Nadal dipped into the energy reserves to hit straight back.

When a forehand winner zipped down the line to bring up set point, Ruud shook his head in despair, and promptly double-faulted to give Nadal a 2-0 lead.

Casper Ruud was outclassed in the final (Jean-Francois Badias/AP) (AP)

Little went right for Norway’s first male singles grand slam finalist, and when he feathered a simple volley into the net Nadal was two breaks up in the third.

In the end it was a procession, with ‘Viva Espana’ blaring out from a band in the stands as Nadal added the Roland Garros trophy to the Australian Open he won earlier this year.

Whether his ageing, ailing body allows him to collect any more remains to be seen.

In his acceptance speech Nadal did, at least, scotch any thoughts of imminently hanging up his racket.

“For me personally, it is very difficult to describe the feelings that I have,” he said.

It means everything to me. I don't know what can happen in the future but I am going to keep fighting to try to keep going

“It’s something that I never believed, that I would be here at 36, being competitive again, playing on the most important court of my career one more time in a final.

“It means everything to me. It means a lot of energy to try to keep going. I just want to say ‘merci, merci beaucoup’.”

“I don’t know what can happen in the future but I am going to keep fighting to try to keep going.”

Ruud’s name was added to a list of victims also including Djokovic, Federer, Ferrer, Mariano Puerta, Robin Soderling, Dominic Thiem and Stan Wawrinka.

Gracious in defeat, he said: “This is a first time for me so let’s see how I do. The first and most important thing is to congratulate Rafa.

“It’s your 14th time, 22nd all round in Grand Slams. We all know what a champion you are.

“Today I got to feel how it is to play against you in a final. It’s not easy and I’m not the first victim. I know there have been many before.”

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