Rafael Nadal gives himself his fourteenth Roland-Garros and, at 36, defies the laws of time

Rafael Nadal gives himself his fourteenth Roland-Garros and, at 36, defies the laws of time

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The Spanish Rafael Nadal savors his fourteenth victory at Roland-Garros, on Sunday, June 5, 2022.

“Playing the final against Rafa at Roland-Garros is surely the biggest challenge in this sport. It seems absolutely impossible, but I will try, as the other thirteen have done before me. » Like the other thirteen before him, Casper Ruud came, saw, lost. Sunday June 5, Rafael Nadal won his 14me title on Parisian clay (6-3, 6-3, 6-0), on 22me in the Grand Slam, relegating his two great rivals, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, by two lengths.

The challenge was simply dizzying for the young Norwegian (23), who had never ventured at this point, stagnating until then at the Grand Slam round of 16 stage. Even more so when we faced each other for the first time on the circuit that we idolized since we were 6 years old. “Today I was able to get an idea of ​​what it’s like to face you on this court in the final”, Casper Ruud said to the Spaniard, smiling at the end of the match.

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers At Roland-Garros, Casper Ruud no longer wants to play as extras

“What is happening to me this year is total madness, it is very difficult to describe the feelings I feel, to win again at 36 years old on this most important court of my career, it means a lot,” stammered Rafael Nadal upon receiving the Musketeers Cup from the hands of American legend Billie Jean King, under the gaze of King Felipe VI.

He jumped to Porte d’Auteuil

What does it matter that the match did not last after a night – it was in a souvent that was also after the first sacre du gaucher, in 2005. What did it matter that the vainqueur did not evolve from its standards to two sets during, on a Central Court fresh air. In a few years, everyone will have banished him from their memory. Only its outcome and the thickness of the piece of history will remain from this duel. As a bonus, the Spaniard was allowed this Sunday to conquer one of the last records that resisted him at the Porte d’Auteuil: he became the oldest winner of the tournament, surpassing his compatriot Andrés Gimeno fifty years ago.

At 36 years and two days old, the Majorcan will soon run out of strands of hair to tuck behind his ears before serving. But meanwhile, on the clay courts of Paris, he continues to defy the laws of gravity. And, even more so, those of time.

Never before had the landlord plowed so little before joining his kingdom, first crippled by a broken rib, before the pain in his left foot suddenly awoke in Rome three weeks ago. Had the phoenix been resurrected in Australia in January only to be consumed better? When he jumped into Paris, the question was whether he would be able to defend his chances. Throughout the fortnight, his foot (anesthetized, he confesses) was the subject of debate, but he held on somehow, after an obstacle course.

The Spanish had never been so pushed in the second week at a table that he did not give him a gift. In the round of 16, it took him five sets to defeat Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime, protected by his uncle and former coach, Toni Nadal. In a final before the hour, he then got revenge at the end of the night on Serbian Novak Djokovic, who had snuffed him out in the semis last year.

Also read: Rafael Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic and prolongs the adventure at Roland-Garros

In the semis, finally, he choked out less than two sets but more than three hours before Alexander Zverev’s ankle slipped and forced the German to retire. Who knows what would have happened without this push of fate?

After all that, no one imagined him hitting the final hurdle. Not with his iron will, the one he professed after his title at the US Open in 2019: “I can fail technically or tennis-wise, but I don’t allow myself to fail mentally. » At 36, Rafael Nadal winces, but is still standing. Broken everywhere, patched up, but not removed yet.

A fortnight between adventures and extravagances

In the end, his fortnight will have alternated between vagabondage and extravagance, in a stadium that unanimously supported him, even if he wasn’t always the favorite in the past. On Sunday he received from the 15,000 spectators, standing, the same ovation that he has received since his entry into the race on May 23. In the same way that he had been resurrected in Melbourne after five months of convalescence, in Paris, Rafael Nadal shattered all forecasts. With all that remains of rage and courage. Holding on to this crazy dream of winning a 14me times in “his” land. The last ?

This week, he put the rest of his career in doubt. “To be honest, every match I play here could be the last at Roland-Garros, or even in my career, who knows? » The Spaniard even pretended to gladly exchange one last coronation in his kingdom for the promise of a new foot. “I prefer to miss the final and have a new foot that allows me to be happy every day. Winning fills you with momentary joy, but I have a life waiting for me later, that’s the most important thing, and I would like to be able to play amateur sports there with my friends…”, he said on Friday.

In his speech at the awards show, he was less alarming: “I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I’ll keep fighting” he promised the public, although he put up with giving him an appointment next year.

“Playing with an anesthetized foot exposes me to other problems, it was a risk I was willing to take here, but not any longer. I can’t and I don’t want to go on like this.” Nadal then indicated that he will try another treatment starting next week before deciding what to do next. “What still drives me to continue is not trying to win more Grand Slams than others, it is the passion for the game, playing in front of full stadiums, but if I don’t feel more competitive I won’t have more pleasure”, he continued.

In the twilight of his career, the Philippe-Chatrier court remained his stronghold. In 2005, the fiery 19-year-old lay there for the first time, arms outstretched and back to the ground. No matter what the future holds, after seventeen years of reign, the Spaniard can calmly hand over the keys to his kingdom.

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers Roland-Garros: Rafael Nadal, the twilight of a king

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