Rafael Nadal won a record-extending 14th French Open title and 22nd Grand Slam men’s singles title, sweeping Norwegian Casper Ruud in what may have been his last time playing the tournament.
Nadal beat Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in what he cautioned in the week leading up may have been his final French Open after being set back by congenital, degenerative foot pain over the last year. Nadal authored the second-biggest blowout of his 30 Grand Slam singles finals to become the oldest champion in Roland Garros history.
“For me, personally, very difficult to describe the feelings that I have,” Nadal said in his victory speech. “It’s something that I for sure never believed, be here at 36, being competitive again, playing in the most important court of my career one more time in a final means a lot.
“I don’t know what can happen in the future, but I’m going to keep fighting to try to keep going.”
Nadal broke fellow Spaniard Andres Gimeno‘s record as the oldest French Open singles champion, doing so on the 17th anniversary of his first title in Paris. Chris Evert, the second-most successful French Open champion in the Open Era, won it seven times.
“Much more, probably, emotional than the first time because completely unexpected to be where I am at this age, at this stage of my career,” said Nadal, who due to the foot limped and grimaced at the end of his last match before the French Open on May 12. “I have been going through tough times the last couple of months.”
Asked directly if there’s a chance he plays another French Open, Nadal said he didn’t know.
“Of course, I would love to keep coming, but at the same time we need to find a solution for that because I can’t keep going the way that I am doing,” he said on NBC.
Nadal said he played with no feeling in his left foot — “the foot was asleep, so that’s why I was able to play,” he said on Eurosport — after receiving two injections before each of his seven matches the last two weeks.
In a French TV interview, Nadal said that he couldn’t walk after his second-round match, according to a translation by French journalist Caroline Bouchard.
“It’s obvious that I can’t keep competing with the foot asleep,” Nadal said in a later press conference. “It’s a risk that I wanted to take to play here. It’s not a risk that I want to keep taking to keep going on my future.”
He said that over the next week, his medical team will experiment with a treatment to alleviate the foot problem permanently.
“If that works, I’m going to keep going,” Nadal said. “If that not works, then going to be another story.”
He will play Wimbledon, which starts in three weeks, “if my body is ready” and if he can do it without taking the pain-killing injections.
Nadal moved two major titles ahead of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer for the most in men’s singles history. While Federer, at 40, hasn’t played in nearly a year, Djokovic has a chance to pass Nadal but would need to win majors at least into 2023. Djokovic is one year younger than Nadal.
The foot pain caused Nadal to have retirement thoughts last year, when he ended his season early before the U.S. Open. Then he won the Australian Open in what he called the most unexpected achievement of his career. Now, he’s won the first two majors of the year for the first time.
“It’s completely amazing the things that are happening this year,” Nadal said Sunday.
Nadal now has as many French Open titles as Pete Sampras has total majors. Sampras held the men’s majors record until 2009.
Nadal’s march through the tournament may have been his most arduous. He beat four top-10 seeds en route to a major title for the first time in his career, including a five-set fourth-round match and a quarterfinal with top-ranked Djokovic.
Ruud, a 23-year-old who idolizes Nadal, is the first Norwegian man to make it past the fourth round of a major.
“Today I got to feel how it is to play against you in a final,” Ruud said in his runner-up speech. “It’s not easy. I’m not the first victim.”
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