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Nadal reigns supreme at Roland-Garros again after Ruud awakening

In the end, it was inevitable – a record-breaking win for Rafael Nadal on the court that has become his second home

Rafael Nadal Rafael Nadal (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

Rafael Nadal pulled his battered body together one more time to triumph in the final of Roland-Garros – his 14th title there and 22nd overall.

The latest challenger to be vanquished was Casper Ruud, 23 years old and in his maiden Grand Slam final, playing his idol – at whose academy he once trained.

Rather than the young hope blazing a trail for a new generation, it was the veteran who rubber-stamped his dominance in this tournament and extended his lead when it comes to men’s Slam titles. Nadal, aged 36 years and two days, is now the oldest man to win Roland-Garros – almost two years older than compatriot Andres Gimeno when he won it aged 34 back in 1972.

Ruud – as one would expect from a player who has enjoyed such a fine run this fortnight – had his chances. Indeed, he was 3-1 up in the second set, and poised at 30-all.

But Nadal – even a slightly hampered Nadal – was inexorable. He won five straight games to take the second set in 51 minutes, the same length of time that it took him to wrap up the first. With a two-sets-to-love advantage, the denouement was inevitable, and he raced to the finish line. With that lead, over the course of his career Nadal was 12-0 in major finals (eight of which happened in Paris), 91-0 at the French Open, and 236-2 at all majors.

Ruud was pragmatic in his on-court speech, congratulating Nadal first off: “We all know what a champion you are. Today I got to feel how it is to play against you in a final. It’s not easy. I’m not the first victim, there have been many before! You have taken me into your academy with open arms…thank you a lot, you are a true inspiration for me. I hope, we all hope, you will continue for some more time.”

Spain’s Rafael Nadal bites the trophy to celebrate after winning the men’s singles final against Norway’s Casper Ruud (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

There continue to be question marks about Nadal’s fitness, and he has been clear that he will be thinking more intensely about his future now that the tournament is over.

“It’s amazing the things that are happening this year,” he admitted in his winner’s speech. “If I don’t have a great support from my team, family, everybody next to me, nothing of this would be possible because I would be retired much before…I don’t know what can happen in the future but I want to keep fighting, to try to keep going.”

Nadal is rumoured to be considering not playing Wimbledon. Having won the first two Slams of the year, the Grand Slam is on – if his body permits, maybe he will go for yet another record.

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