PARIS (AP) — Rafael Nadal actually has nothing extra to do to clarify his greatness on a tennis court docket. The 21 Grand Slam titles. The 13 championships on the purple clay of the French Open alone.
That’s to not say he doesn’t need to obtain extra, after all. Still, it’s not why he’s nonetheless on the market, at age 36, bothered by persistent ache that flares up in his left foot occasionally, and able to face 23-year-old Casper Ruud of Norway within the males’s remaining at Roland Garros on Sunday.
“It’s not about things that you need to prove. It’s about how much you enjoy doing what you are doing — or, if you don’t enjoy, then it’s another story,” stated Nadal, who superior when his semifinal opponent, third-seeded Alexander Zverev, wanted to cease enjoying late within the second set after hurting his proper ankle.
“But if you like what you are doing, you keep going. … I keep playing because I like what I do. So that’s it,” Nadal continued. “Of course I enjoy (it). And if I am healthy enough to play, I like the competition, honestly.”
Nadal, whose birthday was Friday, is the second-oldest man to get to the title match in Paris; Don Budge was 37 when he was the runner-up in 1930. The oldest champion in match historical past was Andres Gimeno, 34 when he received in 1972.
“I like to play in the best stadiums of the world and feel myself, at my age, still competitive. Means a lot to me.” Nadal stated. “That makes me feel in some way proud and happy about all the work that we did.”
While he isn’t displaying any apparent indicators of slowing, the previous 12 months or so has not been simple.
Nadal sat out many of the final half of 2021 — lacking Wimbledon, the Tokyo Olympics and the U.S. Open — due to his foot drawback.
He was in a position to win the Australian Open in January to interrupt a three-way tie at 20 main trophies with Novak Djokovic (who wasn’t there as a result of he isn’t vaccinated towards COVID-19) and Roger Federer (who’s sidelined after a sequence of knee operations). But after that, Nadal missed time with a rib harm, then was clearly hobbled by the foot as he limped round through the Italian Open final month.
“I was not very positive after that about my foot, but I was positive that I will be able to play here. And here I am. I played, I (fought), I did all the things possible to give myself at least a chance to be where I am,” stated Nadal, who introduced his private physician with him to Paris, “and happy, of course, to be able to give myself another chance to play on the (last) Sunday here.”
If Nadal has loads of previous success and “been there, done that” in his favor going into the ultimate, Ruud does have youth on his aspect. Not to say a powerful current monitor file on clay, with tour highs of 66 match wins and 7 titles on the floor for the reason that begin of the 2020 season.
“I will need to play my best tennis ever,” stated Ruud, who by no means had been previous the fourth spherical of a significant till this week. “But I still have to believe that I can do it.”
Nadal is 13-0 in French Open finals, capturing the trophy in his teenagers, his 20s and his 30s — and Ruud was paying shut consideration.
“I could probably tell you all the finals and who he has played and who he has beaten, because I watched them all on TV,” Ruud stated, after which proved it by going by means of a listing of the opponents. “To be a part of that group myself is something I can always brag about after my career. I will, of course, give it a shot at the title, and would be nicer to be able to brag about the title, as well, after my career.”
Ruud, whose father, Christian, was knowledgeable tennis participant from 1991 to 2001, calls Nadal his idol and has educated over the previous 4 years on the Spaniard’s academy in Mallorca.
And whereas Nadal and Ruud by no means have met in an official match, they’ve spent many a day enjoying apply units towards one another.
“He always, pretty much, has always beaten me,” Ruud stated with a smile, then joked that, as a visitor on the academy, he felt he wanted to let his host win.
“This is a special occasion for both of us. He’s playing for his 22nd; I’m playing for my first. Big contrast,” Ruud stated. “I’m the underdog, and we will just enjoy the moment.”