Rafael Nadal wins historic 14th French Open title in final versus Casper Ruud


0

PARIS — Experience vs. youth. It was an age-old argument on display in the men’s final at the French Open on Sunday, but in the end, Rafael Nadal easily beat Casper Ruud of Norway for the title.

Nadal extended his incredible tally of victories in Paris to 14 — and set another record with his 22nd Grand Slam title as well. Live updates from the match as it unfolded:


Nadal eases to the title

That was straightforward for Nadal, as he sees off Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 here in Paris. In a match that lasted only 2 hours and 18 minutes, Nadal looked comfortable. There was a shaky spell at the start of the second set, but aside from that hiccup, Nadal was in control.

Why did we ever doubt him? He has now won both Slams this season, having triumphed at the Australian Open back in January, all at the age of 36 years old and with an injured left foot.

“It’s something I never believed,” Nadal said after the match, “Being here at 36, being competitive again, playing on the most important court of my career. Playing here one more time means a lot for me. I just want to say merci beaucoup to everyone here. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I’ll keep fighting to keep on going.” — Tom Hamilton


Ruud’s chance is gone

Ruud played perfect tennis for a couple of games to get the break, and Nadal made a few mistakes. But Ruud can’t sustain it; he just doesn’t have the level and as soon as he drops even a tiny bit, Nadal is all over him. How many times have we seen Nadal tested for a while here and then pull away again? He is relentless. Unless something wild happens from here, this match is over. — Simon Cambers


Nadal taking a step closer to No. 22

There were moments in this set where Nadal looked vulnerable. But now he’s 5-3 up, with Ruud serving. If you think the crowd is booing Ruud back home — think again. It’s just their support in the form of “Ruuuuuuuuud!” But despite breaking Nadal earlier in the set, it’s the Spaniard who’s in charge. — Hamilton


Nadal takes charge

Nadal’s serve is still a little shaky — just 57% on his first serve — but he has taken the first set here in under an hour, easing past Ruud 6-3. Nadal is in his element in front of his adoring fans, as he takes one step closer to another title. — Hamilton


Royalty appreciating royalty

King Felipe VI of Spain is sitting in the front row of the president’s box at Chatrier, clapping along with every point Nadal wins, while on his left is the Crown Prince of Norway Haakon and his wife Mette-Marit, the Crown Princess of Norway. Near them are ex-tennis players Billie Jean King and Gustavo Kuerten. And there’s also some stars of the silver screen here, with Sienna Miller, Hugh Grant and Michael Douglas all in attendance. — Hamilton


The problem for Ruud

In these conditions, with a bit of a breeze, Ruud has to be almost perfect to even have a chance. The balance between aggression and consistency against Nadal is the biggest challenge to pull off because the tendency is always to think you have to go for winners. Nadal has so much margin for error and so much experience. — Cambers


Nadal’s serve shaky early on

It’s a slightly strange start to this match. Nadal breaks Ruud first up, but then Ruud breaks him back the next time around, with Nadal serving back-to-back double faults.

There’s a long way to go, but the ball is noticeably spinning more than it has previously for Nadal. That is something he lamented after the two matches under the roof against Djokovic and then Zverev. He said the conditions were heavy, preventing the ball from spinning as much as he’d like. Today, that is not a problem. — Hamilton


A first for Nadal?

For all the talk of a possible 14th Roland Garros title for Nadal, it is worth remembering that if he wins today he will be halfway to the coveted calendar-year Grand Slam for the first time ever. Is this going to be extra motivation? — Cambers


Master or apprentice?

The atmosphere is absolutely bouncing on Court Philippe-Chatrier in anticipation of this final. Two Nadal fans in front of the press box are wearing hats with the No. 22 on it — clearly anticipating a Nadal triumph, which would extend his record men’s singles Grand Slam title count. But he won’t have it easy against Ruud, the Norwegian clay specialist in his first Grand Slam final. Ruud has grown up idolizing Nadal and has frequently trained at his academy — but will it be the master or the apprentice who gets through today? — Hamilton


Getting ready


Previewing the match

Why Rafael Nadal will win

Because he’s Rafael Nadal, and this is Roland Garros. The King of Clay is back in another final on the court he loves the most, and having won all 13 finals he has played in at Roland Garros, he knows exactly what he’ll have to do to win.

The way he raised his game to beat Djokovic in another epic battle in the quarterfinals showed why he’s still the best player in the world on this surface, on Court Philippe Chatrier, where the extra room around the court allows him to come up with such incredible winners.

The pair have never played each other on the ATP Tour, but Nadal knows Ruud well, having had him to his academy in Mallorca a few years ago. The pair played many practice sets together.

When Nadal was playing Jordan Thompson earlier in the tournament, at one stage the Australian shouted out: “best player in the world and still he gets the luck,” as a Nadal net cord landed his side.

And the 36-year-old will benefit from his semifinal with Zverev that lasted only three hours because the German player suffered a nasty ankle injury at the end of the second set. Had the match gone on — and proceeded at the same speed – it might have lasted five or six hours.

We never know what’s going on behind the scenes, but it seems that Nadal’s chronically problematic left foot has held up well so far, a near miracle given how much pain he was in during the Rome Masters a few weeks ago.

It’s worth remembering that if Nadal wins, he not only wins Grand Slam title No. 22 but also would be halfway to the calendar-year Grand Slam for the first time in his career, which would make Wimbledon a temptation, although he still might end up resting his foot instead.

If he is physically sound, Nadal knows how to get the job done in the final. It would be a massive surprise if he doesn’t.

Why Casper Ruud will win

Ruud is the first Norwegian man to reach a Grand Slam final, and he fully deserves his place, having begun his campaign with a difficult match against France’s darling, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and seen off a number of more experienced foes along the way, including Marin Cilic in the semis.

Ruud also is at his best on clay, as he showed in 2021, when he won four of his five titles on the surface, integral to his rise into the world’s top 10.

The Norwegian player is calm on court, and his tennis is equally calm, his thought processes clear. The only contrast is the venom of his forehand, which can cause real damage, as Cilic found out in the semis, when 35 winners flew past him.

Although he’ll be appearing in his first Slam final, and will almost certainly be nervous, Ruud has the kind of demeanor that suggests he will cope. He also has a very uncomplicated game, a good serve, excellent groundstrokes and superb movement, which should ensure he doesn’t let the occasion hit him too badly.

Moreover, though he has not played Nadal in an official match, Ruud has had the chance to see him up close, playing plenty of sets against him in practice when he visited Nadal’s academy a few years ago.

Ruud said Nadal “always pretty much has always beaten me.”

“There’s been some close sets, 7-6, 7-5, but it always goes his favor — but it’s because we are playing in the academy and I want to be nice to him and give him the [win],” Ruud said with a smile.

There is a quiet confidence about Ruud and a sense that he feels he belongs. There would be no finer way of showing it than to beat Nadal on Sunday.

Who will win?

It’s just impossible to go against Nadal with any conviction. The chances are that Ruud might live with him for a while, maybe even take a set, but that the effort of doing so will leave him with nothing left. It’s Nadal’s to lose. — Cambers


Like it? Share with your friends!

0