Will Rafael Nadal’s 14th French Open final be his last?

Rafael Nadal
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In 2011, Rafael Nadal first detailed the extent of the rare, congenital foot condition that threatened to end his career after one French Open title in 2005 and has him cautioning that Sunday’s final may be his last French Open match.

“Having diagnosed the problem, the specialist delivered his verdict,” in December 2005, Nadal co-wrote in his book, “Rafa,” released six years later. “It could be, he pronounced, that I’d never be able to play competitive tennis again. I might be obliged to retire, at the age of nineteen, from the game in which I had invested my life’s dreams. I broke down and wept; we all wept.

“Everything I’d been building toward all my life was crumbling before my very eyes.”

This story has come into focus this past year, and especially at this French Open. Nadal plays Sunday’s final against No. 8 seed Casper Ruud of Norway on the 17th anniversary of his first French Open title, live on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock Premium.

“Every match that I play here, I don’t know if going to be my last match here in Roland Garros in my tennis career, no? That’s my situation now,” Nadal said last Sunday.

Nadal’s success — a record 21 Grand Slam men’s singles titles, including 13 at the French Open — has been more tied to his uncles — Toni, his longtime coach, and the sports genes from Miguel Angel, a World Cup soccer player. But it was his father, Sebastian, who took charge in that 2005 diagnosis moment and sought out a plan to combat Mueller-Weiss syndrome, a bone condition that causes chronic pain.

“My father provided a tiny glimmer of light,” Nadal wrote. “He said two things: first, that he was confident we’d find a solution — the doctor’s precise words, he reminded us, had been that the injury ‘might’ be career threatening; second, and if all else failed, I could dedicated myself successfully to my new and growing passion, the game of golf.”

At Toni’s urging, Nadal came out of an “irritable, distant, dark” time to train.

He hopped on crutches out to a court and hit balls to, as he wrote, “build a little hope.” Resting the foot entirely caused the pain to ebb away. Nike developed a wider, thicker shoe to cushion the weight on his foot.

“It’s a work in progress,” Nadal wrote. “We still haven’t got it absolutely right. Maybe there is no absolutely right solution. The fact is that years have passed since then, and the tarsal scaphoid bone still hurts me. … It remains under control, just, but we can never drop our guard.”

A decade later, one of the re-emergences of the pain had Nadal considering retirement late in 2021.

“It’s the same injury I’ve been having since 2005,” Nadal said in announcing his withdrawal from last summer’s U.S. Open, after also missing Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics due to the foot. “In that moment, the doctors were very negative about my future career, but honestly, I’ve been able to have a career that I never dreamed about so I am confident I will recover again, and if the foot is better, I am confident that my tennis and my mentality will be there again soon.”

Nadal returned for the start of the 2022 season. He won the Australian Open in what he called the most unexpected achievement of his career.

“Everybody around me, me included, of course, but everybody around me had a lot of doubts,” he said after winning that title to break his tie with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer for the most men’s major singles titles. “Not about Australian Open, no, but about coming back on the tour because the foot was bothering a lot of days.”

This year, Nadal did not win a clay-court tournament title before playing the French Open for the first time in his career. After his last pre-Paris tournament, he delved again into the foot.

“I am not injured. I am a player living with an injury. That’s it. No, no, is nothing new,” Nadal said on May 12. “What can happen in the next couple of days, I don’t know. What can happen in one week, I really don’t know now.”

Nadal said it was tough to practice on consecutive days. It impacted oddsmakers, who put him as the third favorite for the French Open behind Djokovic and 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz. Then the draw came out — Nadal in Djokovic’s quarter and Alcaraz’s half — and for a time he was even with Stefanos Tsitsipas as the fourth favorite.

Yet Nadal marched through a taxing (and not just physically) draw: a five-set win over No. 9 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round (Toni now coaches Auger-Aliassime), then Djokovic in four sets in the quarterfinals and advancing from a punishing semifinal when No. 3 Alexander Zverev suffered an ankle injury.

It’s the first time Nadal has played four top-10 players at one major. He has prevailed at this tournament with his longtime doctor, Angel Ruiz Cotorro, on site to help him. He said that he would trade a win in Sunday’s final for a healthy foot for the rest of his life, though he is holding up well physically in Paris.

“I have what I have there in the foot, so if we are not able to find an improvement or a small solution on that, then it’s becoming super difficult for me, no?” he said this week. “So that’s it.”

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Joel Embiid gains U.S. citizenship, mum on Olympic nationality

Joel Embiid

Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid said he is now a U.S. citizen and it’s way too early to think about what nation he would represent at the Olympics.

“I just want to be healthy and win a championship and go from there,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

Embiid, 28, was born in Cameroon and has never competed in a major international tournament. In July, he gained French nationality, a step toward being able to represent that nation at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

In the spring, French media reported that Embiid started the process to become eligible to represent France in international basketball, quoting national team general manager Boris Diaw.

Embiid was second in NBA MVP voting this season behind Serbian Nikola Jokic. He was the All-NBA second team center.

What nation Embiid represents could have a major impact on the Paris Games.

In Tokyo, a French team led by another center, Rudy Gobert, handed the U.S. its first Olympic defeat since 2004. That was in group play. The Americans then beat the French in the gold-medal game 87-82.

That France team had five NBA players to the U.S.’ 12: Nicolas BatumEvan FournierTimothe Luwawu-CabarrotFrank Ntilikina and Gobert.

Anthony Davis, who skipped the Tokyo Olympics, is the lone U.S. center to make an All-NBA team in the last five seasons. In that time, Embiid made four All-NBA second teams and Gobert made three All-NBA third teams.

No Olympic team other than the U.S. has ever had two reigning All-NBA players on its roster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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LA 2028, Delta unveil first-of-its-kind emblems for Olympics, Paralympics

Delta LA 2028
LA 2028

Emblems for the 2028 Los Angeles Games that include logos of Delta Air Lines is the first integration of its kind in Olympic and Paralympic history.

Organizers released the latest set of emblems for the LA 2028 Olympics and Paralympics on Thursday, each with a Delta symbol occupying the “A” spot in LA 28.

Two years ago, the LA 2028 logo concept was unveiled with an ever-changing “A” that allowed for infinite possibilities. Many athletes already created their own logos, as has NBC.

“You can make your own,” LA28 chairperson Casey Wasserman said in 2020. “There’s not one way to represent Los Angeles, and there is strength in our diverse cultures. We have to represent the creativity and imagination of Los Angeles, the diversity of our community and the big dreams the Olympic and Paralympic Games provide.”

Also in 2020, Delta was announced as LA 2028’s inaugural founding partner. Becoming the first partner to have an integrated LA 2028 emblem was “extremely important for us,” said Emmakate Young, Delta’s managing director, brand marketing and sponsorships.

“It is a symbol of our partnership with LA, our commitment to the people there, as well as those who come through LA, and a commitment to the Olympics,” she said.

The ever-changing emblem succeeds an angelic bid logo unveiled in February 2016 when the city was going for the 2024 Games, along with the slogan, “Follow the Sun.” In July 2017, the IOC made a historic double awarding of the Olympics and Paralympics — to Paris for 2024 and Los Angeles for 2028.

The U.S. will host its first Olympics and Paralympics since 2002 (and first Summer Games since 1996), ending its longest drought between hosting the Games since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960.

Delta began an eight-year Olympic partnership in 2021, becoming the official airline of Team USA and the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Athletes flew to this year’s Winter Games in Beijing on chartered Delta flights and will do so for every Games through at least 2028.

Previously, Delta sponsored the last two Olympics held in the U.S. — the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

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