For the 14th time in his career, Rafael Nadal will set foot on the central defender at Roland-Garros this Sunday with the aim of lifting the trophy with his arm outstretched. The Spanish has never stumbled at this point in the tournament. But can “Rafa” pull off the feat, after a particularly difficult fortnight in Paris?
• Read also: ‘It was very hard to see him cry’: Nadal advances to 14th final after Zverev injury
• Read also: Leylah leaves Paris in pain
• Read also: Roland-Garros: the king is not dead
At 36 years old -which he celebrated on Friday- and with his left foot bruised by an incurable disease, Nadal has been fighting like never before in his sandbox for two weeks.
In the round of 16, “The Ogre of Ocher” was pushed to five rounds by Quebecois Félix Auger-Aliassime, an extremely rare occurrence at Porte d’Auteuil, which had happened to him only three times before this edition.
“The King of Clay” then defeated a strangely erratic Novak Djokovic in the quarters, in what was seen as the final before the final between the world No. 1 and the man with 13 French Open titles.
Then, on Friday, in the semi-final, it was thanks to his almost unmatched determination that “the bull from Manacor” snatched the first set in the tiebreaker from German Alexander Zverev.
Worrying left foot
The match had already lasted three hours when the third seed tore ligaments in his right foot late in the second set after a bad slip.
Forced to leave the field on crutches, Zverev simultaneously conceded a 7-6 (8), 6-6 victory and an abandonment to Nadal, who did seem physically damaged in this duel.
Because the left foot of the great champion has been worrying tennis fans for some time. Last year he was forced to the operation and an absence of half a year.
He came back strong at the start of the season, winning the Australian Open and 21 match wins in a row. But Müller-Weiss syndrome, a disease that he has suffered from the beginning of his career and that attacks a bone in his foot, has since forced him to limit tournaments.
What’s next for Nadal?
In Paris, Nadal continues to say “physically feel good.” Although he has already spent 18 hours in the field since he is in Paris. He is in the French capital with his doctor, he explained at the end of his room before ‘Djoko’.
But there is an aura of mystery around ‘Rafa’ in this tournament. In this same press conference, he said that he did not know “what will happen after” this fortnight.
Will he skip the grass season, the rest of 2022, or will he leave his racket for good? The answer could follow on Sunday.
A 1st against a 22nd
But first, there will be this match against the Norwegian Casper Ruud.
A victory against the eighth seed would not only see him win a 14th Roland-Garros title, but also a 22nd major trophy, bettering his own record.
Ruud, 23, is also a dominant player on ochre, a surface on which he has won 66 wins and seven titles since 2020.
However, this will be his first appearance at this stage of a major.
The two players have never met, but the Norwegian is a great admirer of the Spaniard and has been training at his academy for four years.
“I could tell you about all his finals here, I saw them on television,” he told reporters after his win over Croatian Marin Cilic on Friday.
“This is a special occasion for both of us. He is trying to win a 22nd Grand Slam, and I am my first. The difference is huge, Ruud added. I am the underdog, but I intend to savor this moment. »
#mystery #Rafael #Nadal #14th #coronation