Red Reign: Nadal defeats Ruud for the 14th Roland Garros crown

By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, June 5, 2022


Rafael Nadal played 11 consecutive matches as he demolished Casper Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 to claim his record 14th RG title and 22nd Grand Slam crown.

photo credit: Getty

The shrewd aggressiveness of Rafael Nadal lives as a major monument in Paris.

Today, Nadal has cemented his status as an iconic iron man.

After: Is this Rafa Nadal’s French farewell?

Ruling the red clay with determination, a dynamic Nadal roared through 11 consecutive games demolishing his buddy Casper Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in the Roland-Garros final to win a record 14th Roland Garros crown.

Two days after celebrating his 36th birthday, Nadal looks like a champion of the ages as he wins his 22nd career Grand Slam championship to become the oldest men’s champion in Roland Garros history. Nadal, who has won his eighth major since celebrating his 30th birthday, surpasses fellow Spaniard Andres Gimeno, who was 34 when he led Roland Garros 50 years ago.

It’s Nadal’s most lopsided final triumph at Roland Garros since he crushed Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 in the 2017 final.

Seventeen years to the day after a teenage Nadal, sporting a sleeveless shirt and shoulder-length hair that made him look like a tennis Tarzan, beat Mariano Puerta for his first Roland Garros crown, he quit an opponent 13 years younger in a towering conquest.

“It’s amazing, much more emotional than the first time,” Nadal told NBC’s Maria Taylor afterwards. “Completely unexpected to be where I am at this age at this stage of my career. That means everything. I’ve been through tough times the last two times, so that’s something incredible.”

French fans chanted β€œRafa! Rafa!” in unison as Nadal lifted The Musketeers Cup for the 14th time.

The passion for the game continues to propel Nadal towards a rare tennis air: he has now won at least one clay-court championship for 19 consecutive years.

“For me, personally, it’s very hard to describe the feelings I have. It’s something I never thought I’d be here at 36, being competitive again and playing on the hardest court again. important part of my career once again in the final means a lot to me,” Nadal told the crowd. “That says it all. It means a lot of energy to try and keep going. I just want to say Thank you! Thank you!…”

Fans erupted for one of the biggest roars of the day when Nadal shared his future plans in his closing on-pitch commentary. The Grand Slam king has vowed to keep fighting.

“I don’t know what can happen in the future, but I will keep fighting to try to keep going, thank you very much,” Nadal told the grateful crowd.

This mighty Parisian triumph puts Australian Open champion Nadal two Grand Slam championships ahead of Big 3 rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, who each have 20 major titles, and halfway through the Grand Slam schedule.

A year ago, Roland Garros unveiled a remarkable steel statue of Nadal whipping his forehand in tribute to the king of clay.

Today Nadal acted like a tennis terminator crushing Norway’s first men’s grand finalist. Nadal sliced ​​Ruud in the baseline rallies, broke his backhand wing and beat Oslo’s service man.

Rafa’s revival was fascinating and his achievement is astounding.

The king of clay was a ruthless manager taking his Roland Garros record to an incredible 112-3, rising to 137-3 in best-of-five sets matches on clay and winning his 92nd career championship.

After absorbing a final beating from his friend and sparring partner, Ruud paid a poignant tribute to Nadal.

“We all know what champion you are,” Ruud told Nadal on the pitch. “Today I had the chance to feel what it’s like to play against you in the final. It’s not easy.

“I am not the first victim, I know there have been many before. To you Rafa, to you your team, your family, you took me to your academy with open arms and also to my family. So thank you very much you are a real inspiration to me for everyone who follows tennis around the world, so I hope – we all hope – that you will continue to play tennis for a little longer.”

It was a final played in front of Spanish and Norwegian royalty – and tennis royalty. Hall of Famers Billie Jean King, Stefan Edberg, Gustavo Kuerten and Stan Smith were all in attendance.

The fifth-seeded Spaniard wasted no time attacking Ruud’s weaker backhand and reaping the rewards. Hitting a heavy forehand down the line, Nadal drew the short backhand recovery and hit a few smashes for a double break point.

On his second break point, Nadal drew in the Norwegian striker and delivered a topspin forehand pass in the second game.

An unstable Nadal double faulted twice in a row and slapped a forehand across the middle of the net, returning the break in the third game.

Ruud, 23, trained at the Rafa Nadal Academy and struck left-handed several times.

Facing the king of clay on the Philippe Chatrier court was a whole different experience for the rookie in the Grand Slam final. Even Ruud’s favorite forehand went awry early on as a few errant forehands gave the break right away. Thirty-three minutes into the game, the man from Oslo started for the first time.

Throwing a backhand in the corner, Nadal followed it forward and pushed a drop volley for a double set point. Ruud held on for 2-5.

Sliding his serve into his opponent’s backhand, Nadal caused a string of backhand return errors during the 49-minute opening set.

The bad news for Ruud: Nadal won 14 of 16 first-serve points, setting the tone with his slippery serve and searing forehand. The worst news: Nadal boasted a 17-1 record in the opening set victory of a Grand Slam final with his only loss to Novak Djokovic in an epic 5 hour, 53 minute penalty in the final. the 2012 Australian Open.

Still, the eighth seed dug in and denied two break points to open the second set. Settling into longer rallies, Ruud scorched the sideline with some drives for a triple break point in game four. Seventy-two minutes into the game, Nadal netted his third double fault in the net, giving up the break and a 3-1 lead.

It was Ruud’s only lead of the day.

Masterfully working across the width of the pitch, a ruthless Nadal rode through four consecutive games, including back-to-back love shots, taking a 5-3 second lead.

Credit Ruud for pushing back three set points. The enormity of his task was glaring when Ruud raced around his backhand and hit a diagonal forehand – only to see Nadal intercept it and land a forehand winner down the line for a fourth set point.

Looking at his father and coach, Ruud shook his head in a gesture of both frustration at this predicament and amazement at his relentless opponent. Ruud cracked emptying his first double fault to send the second set.

Court Philippe Chatrier offered a huge running room but no place for Ruud to hide as Nadal chewed up rallies.

“It was hard for me to really know where I should play the ball because on both sides a lot of people said he kind of had two forehands because his backhand is so strong, even though he’s maybe a little weaker.” Ruud said. “On the forehand he plays with a bit of spin and feels like you’re playing a right-handed forehand.

“I didn’t know exactly where to play there at the end and he made me run around the pitch too much. When you play defensively against Rafa on clay, he’ll eat you alive. I guess that’s kind of what happened, and I wasn’t able to keep pushing him and running him too much, so he was the one playing aggressive.”

One set away from a 22nd Grand Slam title, Nadal took about a seven-minute break in the bathroom before serving to start the third set.

The Australian Open champion smashed Ruud in his first service game of the third set and then shattered his will as he beat every shred of self-confidence from the eighth seed.

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Breaking five in a row, Nadal finished with a flourishing backhand shot down the line to seal the No. 14 Roland Garros title in style.

Nadal, 36, has turned clay into the pinnacle of tennis. Nadal says the passion for the game is what always drives him to record heights.

“It’s not about being the best in history. It’s not about records,” Nadal said. “It’s about loving what I do, you know. I love playing tennis. And I love competing. Like I’ve said many times in the past, and that’s not a thing I repeat, it’s not the thing I do I don’t feel it, we achieved our dreams Me, Roger, Novak, we achieved things that we probably didn’t expect.

“For me, what keeps me going is not the competition to try to be the best or to win more Grand Slams than others. What keeps me going is the passion for the game , moments of life that stay with me forever, and playing in front of the best crowds in the world and the best stadiums.”

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