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Rafael Nadal’s last fight?

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Rafael Nadal, undefeated in the Roland-Garros final, is only one match away from a 14th title on clay in Paris despite constant questions about his physical form and his left foot.

The more the rounds pass, the more Rafael Nadal’s Roland-Garros looks like a formidable epic. One of those westerns or samurai films where the gratingly bodied hero comes out of retirement for one last fight. The final duel is also in sight for the left-hander from Mallorca: he faces Sunday, June 5 in the final the young Casper Ruud, 23, in a duel which could be akin to a passing of the torch.

Indeed, if the Norwegian is an ocher specialist, Rafael Nadal is quite simply the king. Over the course of his long and prolific career, the Spaniard has established himself as the master of clay with 472 wins for 46 losses, or 91% success on ochre. He is even the undisputed king of Roland-Garros with 111 wins for three defeats, or 97% success.

Except that Rafael Nadal is now 36 years old. Although his performances in the previous rounds proved that he was far from being on the decline, he still has a well-identified Achilles’ heel: a left foot which makes him suffer chronically and whose intensity of pain 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 was not very optimistic about my foot, while being positive that I would be able to play here (at Roland-Garros). And here I am. I played, I fought, I did everything possible to at least give myself a chance to play in the final”, explained the Mallorcan after his semi-final on Friday. “And all the sacrifices I had to make, all the times I went through to try to keep playing, it all makes sense when you’re going through times like the ones I’m going through in this tournament,” he added. , without revealing the treatment prescribed by his doctor to support the pain in Paris.

Rafael Nadal is coming off several rounds that have put a strain on his body. In the round of 16, the young Canadian prodigy Félix Auger-Aliassime won in a fifth set, a rarity for the Spaniard at Roland-Garros since it was only the third time in his career. In the quarter-finals, he scrapped with his rival Novak Djokovic for 4:11 a.m. In the semi-finals, he appeared dull against Alexander Zverev, suffering his law despite a first set gleaned in the tie-break. The German’s injury retirement cut short his suffering as the match went to a second decisive game.

“There were a lot of moments in this game where it was about survival for me,” conceded Rafael Nadal.

Ruud, the strength of youth

“He has 13 wins and zero losses in the final, so my task may seem impossible. But I will do my best… like the other thirteen before me have done,” said 8-year-old Casper Ruud cautiously.e world champion at 23, which measures the extent of the challenge that awaits him.

“I’m going to dream (the night before the final) that I make big winners and unbelievable long rallies because that’s the price I’ll have a chance and I’ll have to play the best tennis of my life. But I have to believe it”, a summary of the player with eight titles on the circuit, including seven on clay.

The young Norwegian trains at his opponent’s academy in the Balearic Islands and the pair have never faced each other on the tour but have played sets in training before. “He always beat me, but that’s because it’s his academy and I wanted to be nice,” Ruud joked.

The young Scandinavian presents himself with the carelessness of youth. A growing youth, like Carlos Alcaraz, Félix Auger-Aliassime or even Holger Rune, to the point of eclipsing the “next gen”, the Zverevs, Tsitsipas, Rublevs and other Medvedevs who were to reign over tennis after the departure of the “Big Three”.

A retreat in case of victory ?

According to information from the Spanish daily Marca, Rafael Nadal could even end his season if he wins on Sunday. According to the newspaper, the Spanish left-hander would not have a fixed schedule after Roland-Garros and could therefore take a substantial break to save his foot, drying Wimbledon and the US Open.

Information that agitated the community of tennis fans, who even imagined the “bull of Manacore” hanging up the racket by lifting his 14e Musketeers Cup. The Spaniard, however, cut short these conjectures. “I’m confident and I think I can come back [à Roland-Garros]”, Nadal said, according to Eurosport. “I accept things as they come, I have no intention of passing this off as a farewell.

However, he confessed that he was “probably” trading a 14e Coupe des Mousquetaires against a brand new left foot. Proof of an immense career where he has already won everything because many players on the circuit, still looking for a major title, would be ready to exchange an arm or a leg for a Grand Slam title.


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