On June 5, 2005, Rafael Nadal raised his first trophy at Roland Garros after winning in the final to the Argentine Marian Gate. Exactly 17 years later, the Balearic faces today (15:00, Eurosport and DMAX) Casper Ruud in search of 14th, which would be his 22nd Grand Slam at the same time. Thus he would leave Djokovic and Federer further behind, with 20.
That’s why this June 5, 2022 is the most important day in Nadal’s career, also because time passes relentlessly, even for the best Spanish athlete of all time, in the opinion of many, the most important tennis player in history worldwide. He is 36 years old two days ago and not even he knows how many more opportunities he will have to increase his track record. Among other thingsdue to that Chronic left foot injury that torments him, precisely since the year in which he appeared at the Chatrier to be champion. “I would rather lose the final and have a new foot,” he said after surviving the semi-finals due to the withdrawal of Zverev, who injured his ankle before the second-set tie-break after losing the first.
An opponent awaits Rafa today who has progressed at the Academy he owns in Manacor. “I have great respect for him. First of all, for friendship. He has a very good character. He is a great guy, with a great family. As a player I also respect him a lot. He did magnificent things in recent years. He is number eight in the world. That ranking speaks for itself, “says Nadal, who sees the 23-year-old Norwegian as” a professional. “He is relaxed, humble. He is always in a good mood. I think at the Academy we were able to help him a bit. I like to see good people achieving their dreams. I’m happy for him, for his mother and father.” For the man from Manaco “it’s not a surprise at all” that his student is in his first major final.
Although Paris and against Nadal may not be the best place or the best rival to make his debut, Casper, who has never hidden that the Spaniard has been his “lifetime idol”, will try to speed up his chances of victory. “It’s going to be difficult. We all know what a great champion he is and how well he plays in the most important moments and matches. I will dream of great winners and incredible rallies.because that is what I will need if I want to have any chance, and I will have to play my best tennis ever.” Ruud is guaranteed by his numbers on land. Between 2020 and 2022 he is the best on the circuit in wins (66), finals (9) and titles (7), above his mirror and mentor. At Roland Garros they are separated by a stark difference in terms of experience, which can be seen in their balance sheets: 111-3 against 13-4. Also, it’s the first time they’ve met.
“The imbalance in that sense is evident,” says Carlos Moyá, Rafa’s coach, who believes that his pupil “is expecting a tough rival, with tennis that is different from Zverev’s. And from there, he must adapt to the circumstances”. Conditions could be slow and heavy, with storms expected to hit the French capital, forcing the track to be covered. That would hurt both, because they have a similar style. “Rafa is an all-rounder, he has his predilections, but he adapts,” says the coach. Nadal can win for the first time in the same year in Australia and Paris. He is, again, at the gates of glory.