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French Open 2022 final: Rafael Nadal’s bid for more Roland Garros history meets resistance from Casper Ruud

Rafa Nadal has never lost a Roland-Garros final. A win on Sunday against first-time Grand Slam runner-up Casper Ruud would hand the Spaniard a record 14th crown and widen his lead in the men’s race for the top titles.

Nadal, who turned 36 on Friday, overcame physical ailments and a dismal preparation period to win the Australian Open in January to win his record 21st Grand Slam title, breaking a three-way tie with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

If he lifts the Coupe des Mousquetaires again on Sunday, it will be the first time the southpaw has won the hard-court major in Melbourne and the Roland Garros title in the same year and keep him in contention for a Grand Slam on the calendar.

Nadal enjoys an almost mythical status at Roland Garros, where a statue has already been erected in his honor. But standing in his way will be the eighth-seeded Norwegian, 13 years younger and the most consistent player on clay in the past three years.

Ruud has led the men’s Tour since the start of the 2020 season in wins, finals and titles on clay and is the first man from his country to make a Grand Slam singles final.

“I have huge respect for him. First of all as a friend, he has a great character,” Nadal said of Ruud, who has been training at his academy in Mallorca since 2018. is a great guy, and he has a great family.

“As a player, of course, I respect him a lot. He’s done a lot of great things in the last two years,” he said. “It is not a surprise.”

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Nadal and Ruud have never played a competitive match before but the duo have faced each other many times and the Norwegian claims he has never won a practice set against his idol.

Ruud, who will reach sixth in his career on Monday, said he has already surpassed his pre-season goal of making a quarter-final at a major tournament in 2022.

“It’s unbelievable… He’s the last player in the Big Three and the best players in the world I’ve ever played against,” Ruud said.

“So I guess it’s the perfect moment and worth the wait. Finally playing him in a Grand Slam final will be a special moment for me. I hope a little for him too.

“He’s played so many finals, but at least he’s playing a student from his academy this time around. So it’s going to be fun, hopefully.”

Similar to his preparation for the Australian Open, Nadal arrived at Roland Garros with lingering doubts about his fitness after suffering a stress fracture in his ribs and struggling with a chronic foot injury. He won his first three Grand Slam rounds on clay in straight sets but then had to survive intense four-hour battles to beat Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in five sets and rival and 2021 champion Djokovic in four. .

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Nadal, who would overtake fellow Spaniard Andres Gimeno as the oldest Roland Garros men’s singles champion if he won, had to dig in again in a three-hour semi-final slugfest against Alexander Zverev before the German be forced to retire mid-game after injuring his ankle.

Chris Evert, who has won seven of his 18 major tournaments at Roland Garros, was unsure of Nadal’s fitness for the final.

“It’s going to be really interesting,” Eurosport pundit Evert said after Nadal’s semi-final win on Friday.

“Rafa today against Zverev, even though he gave such a fight, I felt like he was a slower step than normal because he had such big games and endless games in along the way, and I wonder which Rafa will show up on Sunday.”

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Post expires at 11:33am on Wednesday June 15th, 2022

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