Rafael Nadal defeated Casper Ruud in straight sets to win a record-extending 14th French Open and 22nd grand slam title, in what is perhaps the toughest and most remarkable triumph of the Spaniard’s storied career at Roland Garros.
At 36, Nadal becomes the oldest French Open champion in history and his victory on the Paris clay comes just weeks after his participation in the tournament was thrown into doubt due to a painful foot injury.
It left Nadal admitting throughout his run to the title that this French Open could be his last and heightened the drama as he survived marathon matches against Felix Auger-Aliassime and then his great rival Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.
“For me, it’s hard to describe the feelings I have. I would not believe I would be here at 36,” said Nadal, who used his experience to dispatch the 23-year-old Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 on what was the Norwegian’s first appearance in a grand slam final.
In regaining his French Open title from Djokovic, after last winning the title in 2020, Nadal has moved two clear of the world No 1 and Roger Federer in the all-time list of grand slam champions.
Nadal’s victory at the Australian Open in January, in which he fought from two sets down to defeat Daniil Medvedev, also means that he is halfway to a calendar grand slam – a feat last achieved in the men’s game by Rod Laver in 1969.
“It’s amazing the things that are happening this year,” Nadal said, before the Spaniard revealed that he has been receiving pain-killing injections in his foot to allow him to play.
“I don’t know what can happen in the future but I am going to keep fighting to try to keep going.”
Nadal progressed to a 30th grand slam final after his opponent Alexander Zverev suffered a horrific ankle injury in Friday’s semi-final, with the players still yet to complete the second set after three hours on court.
But Nadal recovered physically and the final was rather more straightforward, with Nadal finishing with a flourish to win 11 games in a row and reaching his highest level with a stunning array of passing winners.