Rafael Nadal & Casper Ruud Clash For Roland Garros Crown
Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud may be meeting for the first time in Sunday’s French Open final match, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know one other.
The eighth seed is Ruud has been training at Nadal’s Mallorca academy since September 2018, and the Spaniard is feeling particularly confident as he seeks a 14th Roland Garros victory and a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam triumph at 3 p.m. local time (CEST).
“I think in the academy we were able to help him a little bit throughout this period of time,” the Spaniard said after qualifying for the clay-court major final on Sunday. “But, above all, as I usually say, I like seeing [a] decent person succeed.”
“I’m delighted for him. I’m thrilled for his mother and father. They’re people I’m well familiar with. They are a happy, healthy family with wonderful folks. I’m always ecstatic when I see these wonderful folks succeed.”
Casper Ruud conceded that confronting his boyhood idol for the first time in any situation would be an intriguing challenge, but it is a fitting end to his fantasy run this fortnight in Paris.
“He’s the last of the Big 3 and one of the best players in the world I’ve never played against,” Ruud said of Nadal after the Spaniard beat Marin Cilic on Friday to reach his first major Tennis final. “I suppose this is wonderful timing and well worth it.”
“He’s been to so many finals, but this time he’s playing a pupil from his academy.” So, hopefully, it’ll be a good time.”
With Nadal vying for a record-extending 14th victory in Paris and Ruud vying for his first Grand Slam win, ATPTour.com examines some of the major factors that will play a role in Sunday’s championship match.
Nadal has always been regarded as one of the best players of all time, but his desire for further Grand Slam glory has been burning brighter than ever this week in Paris. Instead, the Spaniard’s main concern upon arriving in Paris was how his body would hold up after losing to Denis Shapovalov in Rome little over three weeks ago due to a persistent foot issue.
If Nadal maintains his perfect record in Roland Garros final matchups against Ruud, the 36-year-old would surpass fellow Spaniard Andres Gimeno as the tournament’s oldest men’s singles winner.
With a win on Sunday, Nadal can move two Grand Slam titles clear of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer after winning a record 21st major trophy at the Australian Open in January. Serbia and Switzerland are tied for first place in 20 major awards. If Nadal wins, it will be the first time he has accomplished the Australian Open-Roland Garros double in the same calendar year.
If Nadal wins, he would equal current Tour leader Carlos Alcaraz’s four championships for 2022, having won at Melbourne and Acapulco in addition to the Australian Open.
With a 111-3 win-loss record at Roland Garros, the Spaniard will be difficult to stop as he attempts to create more history in Paris. Casper Ruud was in unfamiliar surroundings as early as his quarter-final match with Holger Rune, in contrast to Nadal’s familiarity with going onto Court Philippe Chatrier for a Roland Garros final. The 23-year-old Norwegian had never been past the fourth round of a Grand Slam before this fortnight in Paris, but he showed no signs of jitters as he came back from a set down to beat Marin Cilic in the semi-finals.
Ruud’s longest match of the tournament was his three-hour, 49-minute victory against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round, but the Norwegian has already spent 18 hours and two minutes on the court.
Overall, he took six minutes less than Nadal. The 23-year-old overcame Emil Ruusuvuori, Lorenzo Sonego, Hubert Hurkacz, Rune, and Cilic in four sets to become the first Norwegian to reach a Grand Slam final.
Ruud may rely on some encouraging statistics in his quest to become the first guy to defeat Nadal in a Roland Garros final. So far in the tournament, the World No. 8 has blasted 52 aces, compared to only 13 for Nadal, as well as more wins (259 to 204) and fewer unforced mistakes (138 to 166) than his opponent. Ruud’s forehand, in particular, has evolved into one of the Tour’s most lethal weapons, and the Norwegian will need it to fire if he is to win.
Regardless of the outcome, Ruud will enter the Pepperstone ATP Rankings at No. 6 for the first time in his career on Monday. This season, he has already won championships in Buenos Aires and Geneva, as well as reaching his first ATP Tour Masters 1000 final in Miami in March.
It would be the pinnacle achievement for Ruud’s three seasons of clay-court triumph if he could go past Nadal. Since 2020, the Norwegian has 66 wins on the surface, 15 more than anyone else on Tour.
Ruud’s outstanding performances on clay have earned him seven tour-level wins, but he has yet to win a trophy beyond the ATP 250 level. Despite Nadal’s unrivalled record on the surface, the Spaniard will be cautious of Ruud. When questioned about Nadal’s run in Paris, the eight-time tour-level champion stated, “It’s not a great surprise to me.” “Casper Ruud is one of the favourites to win any clay-court event he competes in.” “It’s not surprising at all.”
What If I Told You…
The match between Nadal and Ruud will be the first Grand Slam final featuring a first-time encounter since Djokovic and Tsonga’s title match at the 2008 Australian Open.