A historic small step for Nadal, a giant leap for Ruud

Unbeaten in the Roland-Garros final, Rafael Nadal is just a short game away from a stratospheric 14th title on the Parisian clay.

The Mallorcan left-hander meets Casper Ruud on Sunday, who faces his idol in his first major final.

Competing with Rafael Nadal is “the greatest challenge in sports history” for the young Norwegian. The Spaniard “has 13 wins with 0 losses in the final (red: in Paris) so my task may seem impossible in the world at 23.

“I’m going to dream (the night before the final) that I’m going to do big winners and incredibly long rallies because that’s the prize I’m going to have and I have to play the best tennis of my life. But I did it to believe it,” summarized the player with eight ATP titles, including seven on clay (and three in Switzerland).

Casper Ruud trains at his opponent’s academy in the Balearic Islands and the two have never met on the tour. But in training they have already played sets. “He always beat me but that’s because it’s his academy and I wanted to be nice,” joked the Norwegian.

“The biggest”

The specialist in ocher, Casper Ruud, will face him on Sunday as champion of this surface (472 wins over 46 losses, ie 91% success rate and even 111 wins over 3 losses at Roland-Garros, ie 97% success rate). “greatest player in history” according to Ruud, the record holder of Grand Slam titles (21), the player with an incomparable mind who, against all odds, won the first major of the year at the Open from Australia.

Except that this time Rafael Nadal will present himself – in addition to his 36 years – with a well-identified Achilles’ heel: that left foot that causes him chronic pain and whose intensity can ruin his ambitions. Like in Rome in the round of 16 where he was beaten by Shapovalov after gritting his teeth not to give up.

“After that I wasn’t very optimistic about my foot, although I was confident that I could play here (at Roland-Garros). And here I am. I played, I fought, I did everything for myself at least give them a chance to play in the final,” explained the Mallorquin after his semi-final on Friday.

“And all the sacrifices I’ve had to make, all the times I’ve tried to keep playing, it all makes sense when you’re going through times like I’m going through in this tournament,” he added, not counting those of divulge treatment prescribed by his doctor to endure the pain in Paris.

“A bit of luck”

But especially in the semifinals, after chaining extremely strenuous matches against Auger-Aliassime in the 8th and Djokovic in the quarters, he seemed less incisive physically. He probably only owes his rescue to the terrible injury that his opponent Alexander Zverev sustained at the end of the second set – after the match had started for more than three hours.

“I think it’s a bit lucky that the match ended before the five or six hours of play (which seemed to have started) because he seemed physically exhausted, also because of the game and Sacha’s (Zverev) tactics,” estimated former world No. 1 Mats Wilander, three-time Roland-Garros title.

Chris Evert, who has won the Suzanne Lenglen Cup seven times, agrees: “I feel like he was a notch slower than normal (due to the toughness of his previous games) and I’m wondering which Rafa will show up on Sunday becomes. “, the American told Eurosport.

Wawrinka, the only one

In any case, she rules out a trap for the Spaniard, the pressure of a new exceptional act: “He will win his 14th title, but I don’t think the pressure will affect him, he’s used to it.”

Especially since Nadal was only beaten once in nine Grand Slam finals against a player who made it there for the first time, at the 2014 Australian Open by Stan Wawrinka.

This article was published automatically. Sources: ats/afp

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