When Rafael Nadal was just one match away from winning the French Open for the 14th time, he was questioned about something that at first glance seemed to be a humorous topic. The question was straightforward: we wanted to know if he would agree to get a miracle new foot if it meant losing the championship.
After his match against Alexander Zverev in the semi-final, Nadal declared afterward with all seriousness, “I would prefer to lose the final without a doubt.” “My thoughts have not evolved; ultimately, a new foot would make it possible for me to experience greater happiness in the activities of my day-to-day life. Winning is fantastic, and it provides a brief rush of adrenaline, but life carries on regardless of the outcome. The value of one’s life cannot be compared to that of any title.
Then, he said, he revealed that following his profession, which is now uncertain, he would like to participate in a variety of activities. According to him, his joy should come before everything else.
Despite encountering many challenges along the way, Nadal was able to get to the championship match. After he fractured his rib in Indian Wells, his final tournament before the clay season, which forced him to play catch up, it was already an unanticipated struggle for him to deal with this situation. Since the Italian Open, his Mueller-Weiss syndrome, which is a persistent illness affecting the left foot, has been the primary source of his concern. All of these different challenges have left their mark on his appearance.
Nevertheless, Nadal has raised his game during every significant occasion that has occurred during the previous two weeks. When he was playing Félix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round of the tournament, he did not look like himself as the match went into a tense fifth set. But in the crucial moment of that deciding set, when he really needed to perform well, he stepped up his game to win.
When he played Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the tournament, the stakes were extremely high, making each and every point of the match significant. It makes no difference: he started the match on a roll, shocking Djokovic and then avoiding defeat when he had set point opportunities on his opponent’s service in the fourth set. “Things makes it easy when you know you need to bring your A-game or go home,” he said. When Nadal trailed 2-6 in the first-set tiebreak, he played his finest tennis.
This is not breaking news at all. Fighting spirit, composure under pressure, and the ability to reach new heights in tight situations have been the bedrock of Nadal’s game, but it is astounding that he is able to achieve this time and time again. Nadal’s game has been the bedrock of his ability to reach new heights in tight situations. Things like this frequently shift as an athlete advances in age. A great number of veterans eventually realise how crucial moments like these are, how little time they have left, and how challenging it may be to simply enjoy their freedom.
Not for Nadal. As we speak, he is in the process of trying to win a record-extending 22nd grand slam title, which would be yet another momentous milestone in the history of tennis. He has never in his career won the first two grand slam championships of the year, but he is one match away from completing this milestone in his 20th season, which is two days after his 36th birthday. In his previous career, he has never won the first two grand slam titles of the year.
Casper Ruud, the first player from Norway to reach the final of a grand slam tournament, faces a challenge that simply cannot be more difficult. As a result of the fact that Nadal is Ruud’s hero, the latter has spent the better part of the last few years training at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Manacor. Even though they have spent a lot of time in the same training facility together, Ruud has never actually competed against Nadal. Not only will he have to adjust emotionally to playing in the final of a grand slam for the first time, but he will also have to do so while staring down the great player on the other side of the net.
However, the fact that Ruud plays a less impressive style that was influenced by Nadal and is centred on powerful topspin forehands and unwavering consistency presents an even greater challenge for him. Ruud was given a favourable draw in the bottom half of the bracket. His highest-ranked opponent was the No. 12 seed, Hubert Hurkacz, and this will be the most challenging test of his professional career.
In recent years, as the men’s tennis world has looked for players to follow in the footsteps of Nadal and his competitors, many of Ruud’s contemporaries have generated a great deal more buzz than he has. In spite of this, he has now reached the final of the same amount of major slams as Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, and he has done it before any of the other competitors.
The experience that the 23-year-old had in Paris for two weeks serves as evidence in support of working efficiently, with your head down and your mind concentrated on getting better. This is something that Nadal has proven to Ruud, along with everyone else, over the past twenty years and counting.