Rafael Nadal won his 14th French Open and record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title on Sunday with a straight-sets rout of Casper Ruud to become the oldest male champion at Roland Garros.
Nadal, the oldest winner in Paris since a 34-year-old Andre Gimeno in 1972, had not been certain of taking part after a chronic left foot injury, which has plagued him throughout his career, flared up again.
He also needed the best part of a gruelling 12 hours to see off Felix Auger-Aliassime, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in the previous three rounds.
His two-hour 18-minute win on Sunday took his record at the tournament to 112 wins against just three losses and also put him halfway to a rare calendar men’s Grand Slam last achieved by Rod Laver in 1969.
Nadal, unbeaten in 13 previous finals in Paris and playing in his 30th Grand Slam decider, got off to a flying start against Ruud, the first Norwegian man to feature in a championship match at the majors.
He broke for 2-0 and even though he handed the break straight back courtesy of a two uncharacteristic double faults, he was quickly back in front again for 3-1.
The Spaniard wrapped up the opener in 49 minutes against his 23-year-old opponent who has trained at his academy in Manacor since 2018.
World number eight Ruud, the in-form player on clay since the start of 2020 with 66 wins on the surface, was under siege again in the second set, having to fight off three break points in the opening game.
There was a sudden glimmer of hope when he broke for 3-1 with Nadal again coughing up a double fault. However, Nadal roared back with a double break for 4-3.
Ruud saved three set points in the ninth game but his first double fault of the final handed Nadal a two-set lead.
Nadal had said on the eve of the final that he would rather lose Sunday’s match in exchange for a new foot.
However, without needing to hit top gear, he was in complete control against Ruud, racing away to the title with three breaks in a third set which was over in 30 minutes.
Nadal sealed the win with a backhand down the line, his 37th winner of the final.
Fight to keep going
Rafael Nadal said he would “fight to keep going” after winning his 14th French Open title on Sunday, despite being hampered by injury.
The Grand Slam champion has been suffering from a chronic left foot problem and said earlier this week he was not sure how long he could continue and that every match at Roland Garros could be his last.
On the eve of the final, he even said he’d rather lose Sunday in exchange for a new foot.
“I don’t know what can happen in the future, but I’m going to keep fighting to try to keep going,” Nadal said after thrashing Ruud. “For me, it’s incredible to play here. It’s an incredible feeling.”
The Spanish champion said he would compete at Wimbledon later this month if his body allowed him to.
“I am going to be in Wimbleodn if my body is ready to be in Wimbledon. Wimbledon is not a tournament that I want to miss,” said Nadal.
(With AFP and REUTERS)