Rafael Nadal pulled away to beat Casper Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in the French Open final on Sunday for his 14th championship at Roland Garros and 22nd Grand Slam title overall, adding to two records he already owned.
Nadal’s victory came two days after his 36th birthday and made him the oldest title winner in the tournament’s history on clay.
Ruud led 3-1 in the second set, a deficit that prompted Nadal to raise his level: he won the last 11 games.
Nadal played just as sharp and clean, racking up more than twice as many winners as Ruud, 37 to 16. Nadal also made fewer unforced errors, with just 16 to Ruud’s 26.
When he finished with a backhand down the line from Nadal, he tossed his racket onto the red clay he loves so much and covered his face with the bandaged fingers of both hands.
The Spaniard’s first triumph in Paris came in 2005 at the age of 19. No man or woman has won the singles trophy at a major event longer than her 14 years in Paris. And no one has won more Grand Slam titles than Nadal.
He is two ahead of rivals Roger Federer, who has not played in almost a year after a series of knee operations, and Novak Djokovic, who missed the Australian Open in January because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and he lost to Nadal at Roland Garros.
Given his age and, more worryingly, the chronic pain in his left foot that has been an on-and-off problem for years, Nadal has said repeatedly in recent days that he can never be sure if every match on Court Philippe Chatrier could be the last
However, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason to quit now, considering he’s outclassed four top-10 French Open opponents (No. 9 Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round, No. 1 Djokovic in the quarters). final, No. 3 Alexander Zverev, who stopped due to a foot injury, in the semifinals, and then No. 8 Ruud).
Nadal improved to 14-0 in Roland Garros finals and 112-3 overall in his favorite tournament.
For all he has already accomplished, Nadal has now done something he has never accomplished before: He is halfway through a calendar year Grand Slam thanks to titles at the Australian Open and French Open in the same season.
Ruud is a 23-year-old Norwegian who was participating in a Grand Slam final for the first time. He hadn’t even played in a major quarterfinal until now.
He considers Nadal his idol. He remembers watching all of Nadal’s past finals in Paris on TV. He has trained at Nadal’s tennis academy in Mallorca.
They’ve played countless practice sets together there with nothing else at stake but bragging rights. Nadal usually won those, and Ruud joked the other day because he was trying to be a polite guest.
The two had never met in a real match until Sunday, when a championship, money, ranking points, prestige and a piece of history were on the line. And Nadal demonstrated, as he has done so many times, why he is known as the King of Clay, and among the best in history.
You can now place this latest Coupe des Mousquetaires alongside the trophies you racked up at Roland Garros from 2005-08, 2010-14 and 2017-20. He also won the US Open four times and the Australian Open and Wimbledon twice each.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.
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