Paris, 5 Jun: Rafael Nadal won a 14th French Open and record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title on Sunday with a straight-sets rout of Casper Ruud to become the oldest male champion at Roland Garros and he vowed to “keep fighting”.
In a disappointing final, 36-year-old Nadal won 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 with victory coming 17 years to the day since he claimed his first French Open as a 19-year-old in 2005.
Nadal won the last 11 games of the final and is now two Slams ahead of old rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer with Sunday’s victory coming against all the odds.
Nadal, the oldest winner in Paris since a 34-year-old Andre Gimeno in 1972, had not been certain of taking part after a chronic left foot injury, which has plagued him throughout his career, flared up again.
He also needed the best part of a gruelling 12 hours to see off Felix Auger-Aliassime, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in the previous three rounds.
“I don’t know what I would do in terms of injuries if it wasn’t for the team, my family and everyone around me,” said Nadal.
“I would’ve already retired much before if it wasn’t for you.
“I never believed, that I’d be here at 36, being competitive again. Being here, means a lot to me on the most important court in my career. It helps me to keep going.
“For me, it’s incredible to play here. It’s an incredible feeling. I don’t know what can happen in the future, but I’m going to keep fighting to try to keep going.”
His two-hour 18-minute win on Sunday took his record at the tournament to 112 wins against just three losses and also put him halfway to a rare calendar men’s Grand Slam last achieved by Rod Laver in 1969.
“The most important thing is to congratulate Rafa,” said Ruud.
“You are a true champion. This is the first time I have faced you so now I know what it’s like to be the victim! There will be many others.
“You have taken me into your academy with open arms and you are a true inspiration to me. We all hope you continue for some more time.”
Nadal, unbeaten in 13 previous finals in Paris and playing in his 30th Grand Slam decider, got off to a flying start against Ruud, the first Norwegian man to feature in a championship match at the majors.
He broke for 2-0 and even though he handed the break straight back courtesy of a two uncharacteristic double faults, he was quickly back in front again for 3-1.
The Spaniard wrapped up the opener in 49 minutes against his 23-year-old opponent who has trained at his academy in Manacor since 2018.
World number eight Ruud, the in-form player on clay since the start of 2020 with 66 wins on the surface, was under siege again in the second set, having to fight off three break points in the opening game.
There was a sudden glimmer of hope when he broke for 3-1 with Nadal again coughing up a double fault. However, Nadal roared back with a double break for 4-3.
Ruud saved three set points in the ninth game but his first double fault of the final handed Nadal a two-set lead.
Nadal had said on the eve of the final that he would rather lose Sunday’s match in exchange for a new foot.
However, without needing to hit top gear, he was in complete control against Ruud, racing away to the title with three breaks in a third set which was over in 30 minutes.
Nadal sealed the win with a backhand down the line, his 37th winner of the final. AP