French Open: Nadal ready for 'final push' as his dizzying Roland Garros record spells trouble for Ruud

By Sports Desk June 04, 2022

Rafael Nadal versus Casper Ruud has the air of one of sport's great mismatches ahead of the French Open title match.

Nadal's record at Roland Garros is spectacularly intimidating as he bids for a record-extending 14th title on the Paris clay, having won all 13 of his past finals.

In sharp contrast, Ruud has never played a grand slam final. Nor until this week had he played a semi-final at this level, or a quarter-final.

Nadal will be chasing a 22nd title at the majors on Sunday, and Ruud a first; and yet there are factors that offer the underdog hope, not least the fact the favourite is pushing his body into a new fresh hell every time he steps onto court.

Coach Carlos Moya told ATPTour.com that Nadal, hampered by a long-bothersome foot problem, was carrying "a lot of wear and tear".

"But it's the final push," said Moya, anticipating one last gargantuan effort from the man who turned 36 this week.

"So far, Rafa has done an astonishing job of surviving without playing his best tennis."

Ahead of what could be a far tighter final than Saturday's one-sided women's showpiece, Stats Perform assesses the form and the stakes affecting both players.


One last swing at glory for Nadal?

It has long been the case that Nadal has nothing left to prove. Yet it is the Spaniard's instinct to want to push himself to new heights, and his quarter-final win over Novak Djokovic encapsulated that drive.

"All the sacrifices and all the things that I need to go through to try to keep playing really makes sense when you enjoy moments like I'm enjoying in this tournament," Nadal said after booking his place in the final. He was the beneficiary of Alexander Zverev's injury-forced retirement in the semi-finals, and now a first career match against Ruud awaits.

Should Nadal win, at the age of 36 years and two days, he would become the oldest men's singles champion at Roland Garros in history, surpassing his compatriot Andres Gimeno, who was 34 years, 10 months and one day old when he captured the 1972 title.

No other man in history has reached double figures for titles at a single grand slam, with Novak Djokovic's nine Australian Open wins the next most in a major. Across his 13 previous Roland Garros finals, Nadal has dropped only seven sets.

Given his injury problems, it is highly possible this will prove to be Nadal's final French Open. He has an astonishing overall record of 332-34 in sets won and lost at Roland Garros, emerging victorious from 111 of his 114 matches.

If Ruud looks too closely at Nadal's career numbers, they might become dizzying. The veteran has won 62 of his 91 titles on clay, once enjoyed an 81-match winning streak on the surface (2005-07) and has spent a record 871 consecutive weeks inside the ATP top 10, from 2005 to the present day.

He has never won the Australian Open and French Open in the same year, so that is now achievable, given his success at Melbourne Park in January, when he nudged one clear of Djokovic and Roger Federer on the all-time list of most men's singles slam wins.

"We haven't spoken about number 22," said Moya. "Obviously, it's on the horizon, but that would add pressure to Rafa. It's not necessary."


Would it be Ruud to crash the party?

Nadal said Ruud's run has been "not a surprise at all", and there were some experts who fancied the Norwegian to come through the bottom half of the draw before the tournament began, albeit with most making Stefanos Tsitsipas a likelier finalist.

A curiosity is the fact Ruud has trained at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca since 2018, and he has often practised with Nadal. This, though, is their first encounter in competition. The last first-time meeting in a men's French Open final came in 1997 when Gustavo Kuerten beat Sergi Bruguera.

Ruud, 23, would be the youngest men's singles grand slam winner since 20-year-old Juan Martin del Potro beat Roger Federer in the 2009 US Open final. That was a sensation of a result, with the Argentinian ending Federer's five-year reign in New York, and Ruud may find some encouragement from such an upset.

Ruud leads the ATP Tour since the start of the 2020 season in clay-court wins (66), finals (nine) and titles (seven), yet all of his eight career titles have come at ATP 250 level, a relatively low tier of the professional game where the biggest names rarely compete.

He stepped up by reaching the final of the Miami Open, an ATP 1000 tournament, in April, but was beaten to the title by Carlos Alcaraz.

Sunday's challenger from Oslo, whose father and coach Christian Ruud was an ATP top-50 player in his mid-1990s prime, is a former junior world number one.

He has now become Norway's first grand slam finalist and must tackle arguably the most daunting challenge in the men's game.

Nadal said of Ruud on Friday: "I think in the academy we were able to help him a little bit. I like to see a good person achieving his dreams. I'm happy for him, I'm happy for his mom, dad.

"I know them very well. They are a super healthy family and great people. As always, I am super happy when I see these great people having success."

Nadal did not go on to say he would disbar Ruud from his academy should there be a shock outcome on Sunday.

Perhaps the thought of Ruud winning simply never crossed Nadal's mind.

Related items

  • Los Angeles FC 6-2 San Jose Earthquakes: Cherundolo's side move to Western Conference summit Los Angeles FC 6-2 San Jose Earthquakes: Cherundolo's side move to Western Conference summit

    Los Angeles FC moved to the Western Conference summit with a 6-2 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.at BMO Stadium.

    Mateusz Bogusz struck twice, while Denis Bouanga, Kei Kamara, Ryan Hollingshead and Tomas Angel were also on target as LAFC returned to winning ways in MLS.

    Steve Cherundolo's side saw their eight-match winning streak end at Austin in midweek, but they took the lead through Bogusz after a quarter of an hour.

    Bouanga doubled the lead with his 13th goal of the season, while Kamara headed in a Bogusz cross before Hollingshead's deflected strike made it 4-0 before half-time.

    Rodrigues replied for bottom side San Jose in first-half stoppage time, before Benjamin Kikanovic reduced the arrears in the 57th minute.

    However, LAFC had the final word with Angel striking three minutes from time to send them top of the Western Conference - ahead of Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy by virtue of winning one more game.

    Data Debrief: Kamara passes Donovan

    Kamara's header gave him his 146th regular-season goal in MLS, moving him past Landon Donovan and into second place on the all-time list.

    The 39-year-old is now 25 goals behind Chris Wondolowski's record, while LAFC extended their franchise-record unbeaten streak to 10 matches.

  • Play suspended in Berlin as Pegula and Gauff vie for final place Play suspended in Berlin as Pegula and Gauff vie for final place

    Jessica Pegula's all-American Berlin Open semi-final clash with Coco Gauff has been suspended overnight, as the duo vie for a spot in the final against Anna Kalinskaya.

    Pegula led Gauff 7-5 6-6 (3-1) when rain in the German capital halted play on Saturday, with a later announcement confirming the match will not resume until Sunday.

    Both players had already taken to the court once on Saturday, as Gauff's last-eight opponent Ons Jabeur retired due to illness after losing a 68-minute opening set 7-6 (11-9). 

    Pegula, meanwhile, wrapped up a two-day quarter-final victory over Katerina Siniakova by a 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-3 scoreline.

    The winner of the pair's match will also have to play twice on Sunday, with Kalinskaya lying in wait in the final after she beat former world number one Victoria Azarenka 6-1 6-7 (3-7) 6-1.

    Data Debrief: Kalinskaya primed for an upset?

    Whoever emerges victorious on Sunday morning, Kalinskaya will face a top-five player, with Gauff currently second in the world rankings and Pegula fifth.

    Kalinskaya has already recorded three top-five victories this year. She lost her only previous meeting with Pegula in Washington D.C. in 2019 but won her first clash with Gauff in Dubai earlier this year.

  • Musetti to face Paul in Queen's Championship final Musetti to face Paul in Queen's Championship final

    Lorenzo Musetti will play Tommy Paul in the final of the Queen's Championship following an exceptional day of action in West Kensington.

    In the first game of the afternoon, Italian Musetti edged a three-set encounter 3-6, 6-3, 3-6 against Jordan Thompson to be the first to book his place in Sunday's final. 

    Having won the opening set, Thompson fought back to take the game to a decider. Despite saving five break points in the eighth game, the Australian was eventually beaten as Musetti booked his place in his first grass final. 

    Later that afternoon, Paul came through an all-American contest in straight sets, emerging a 6-4, 7-6 (7-1) victor over Sebastian Korda to set up a maiden encounter with the Italian. 

    27-year-old Paul quickly found a break in the second game against his opponent and despite Korda replying with a break of his own in the seventh game, was unable to recover from his slow start. 

    The second set flowed with both players trading break points, but an error-strewn display from Korda allowed Paul to see out the contest with relative ease to become the first American finalist at Queen's since 2010

    Data Debrief: Musetti faces 

    Musetti maintained his unbeaten record against his Australian opponent, having won their previous encounter in straight sets in Adelaide back in January. The Italian also won 45 of his 62 first-serve points, a success rate of 73%. 

    After three consecutive defeats against Korda, Paul has now won two of his last three meetings with his compatriot. However, his opponent bettered him on first-serve points, winning 74% compared to Paul's 62%. 

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.