You can add Rafael Nadal winning the French Open title to the old cliché that some things in life are guaranteed.
The Spaniard has dominated the clay courts of the iconic Roland-Garros in Paris for the best part of two decades and has shown no sign of letting up at the ripe age of 35 — even if he is having to push his body to its absolute limits at this late stage of his lengthy career.
Nadal was the favourite in the online betting prior to the 2022 renewal of the tournament, but there were some doubts surrounding his fitness, the form of his young compatriot Carlos Alcaraz; who won clay tournaments on home soil in the Madrid and Barcelona Opens, and the return of Novak Djokovic — with the Serbian making his first appearance at a Grand Slam this year after the chaos that ensued before the Australian Open back in January.
However, Nadal hasn’t been crowned the ‘King of Clay’ for no reason and despite the chatter of that title set to be passed down to his fellow Spaniard Alcaraz in the near future, the 35-year-old has shown the tennis world that he isn’t ready to hand over the baton to the 19-year-old, who was knocked out in the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros by Alexander Zverev, just yet.
Nadal was hardly tested in the opening rounds of the French Open, beating Jordan Thompson, Corentin Moutet and Botic van de Zandschulp in straight sets and with relative ease. Felix Auger Aliassime provided his first real challenge in the fourth round, as the Canadian forced a fifth set but ultimately lost 6-3 as Nadal progressed to the quarter-final for a crunch match against his old foe Djokovic.
Nadal breezed to a 6-2 victory in the first set against the Serbian, but Djokovic looked to get back into the game — taking the second set 6-4. However, the King of Clay grabbed the match by the scruff of the neck and won the next two sets 6-2, 7-67-4 to book his place in the semi-finals, at which point a 14th triumph for Nadal looked inevitable.
Zverev was putting up a good fight in the final four though, more or less trading blow for blow in the first two sets. But after losing the opening set 6-610-8 and heading for another tie-breaker at 6-6 in the second, the German suffered a nasty ankle injury, which was later confirmed to be torn ligaments, and was forced off the court on crutches — giving Nadal a walkover to the final.
Casper Rudd was somewhat of a shock finalist despite being the tournament’s eighth seed, as he’d never fared better than the fourth round in 13 Grand Slam appearances thus far in his career. But any hope of the 23-year-old Norwegian causing a major upset was quickly quashed, as Nadal won the first set 6-3 and followed that up with the same score in the second set.
Knowing defeat was on the cards, Ruud didn’t put up much of a fight in the third and final set as Nadal won 6-0 to be crowned the French Open champion for a record-extending 14th time, while he also takes a two-slam lead over Roger Federer and Djokovic in the race to end their respective careers as the most successful men’s tennis player of all time.
How much longer Nadal can keep competing at the top of the sport is a major question that followed his latest Roland-Garros victory however, with the 35-year-old claiming that he doesn’t want to continue playing if he needs to keep to having anaesthetic injections in his foot — as he suffers from Muller-Weiss syndrome, a rare degenerative condition that affects the bones in feet.