As Rafael Nadal enhanced his reputation as the greatest clay-court player ever by winning his 14th singles title at Ronald Garros, not many knew that the Spaniard was playing the final against Casper Ruud virtually on one foot. He was playing with his troublesome left foot "asleep" and with no feeling. He said he had to take multiple injections to last the tournament. At 36, Nadal became the oldest men's singles champion in French Open history, as he stormed past Norwegian Casper Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 on Sunday.
Sealing the victory with a down-the-line backhand against the world No.8, the Spaniard threw his racket to the red clay and tightly covered his face with both hands, of which four fingers were bandaged up. The result marked Nadal's 14th Roland Garros and a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title. "For me personally, it is very difficult to describe the feelings that I have. It is something that I have never believed. To be here at 36, being competitive again on the most important court of my career," said Nada in his post-match comments on Sundayl.
Ruud, Nadal's rival as well as his student, conceded the defeat from the bottom of his heart. "I am not the first victim, I know there have been many before," said the clay major final maiden, who has trained at Nadal's academy in Mallorca since September 2018. "You are a true inspiration to me and everyone who follows tennis around the world. We all hope you will continue for some more time," the Norwegian added during the trophy ceremony.
Doubts over Wimbledon While on the court, people always see Nadal full of vigour and fighting spirit, the Spanish tennis ace has clenched his teeth to endure pains and injuries, and whether he could continue to compete at Wimbledon later in June remains a question. "Everybody knows how much (Roland Garros) means to me, so I wanted to keep trying and to give myself a chance here," said Nadal who has been playing with injections to "sleep his foot" during the past two weeks.
But less feeling also means bigger risks of straining his ankle or producing other problems, reports Xinhua. "It's obvious that I can't keep competing with the foot asleep," said the veteran who decided to undergo treatment again this week back in Spain. "If it works, I keep going. If not, it will be another story and I will ask myself if I am ready to do a major surgery which may not guarantee I will be competitive and may take a long time to be back."
Nadal has been tormented by a foot injury that had brought an early end to his 2021 season. He returned to win the Australian Open and had a 20-match winning streak going when his preparations for Roland Garros were derailed by a recurring foot complaint and a debilitating rib injury. Though he won another title on the red clay he may not be able to continue this way for long.
When Nadal, then 19, first raised the trophy at Roland Garros in 2005, the Spanish teenager's long hair fluttered in the wind. 17 years have passed, thinning his hair, deepening his forehead wrinkles, meanwhile deepening his love for his tennis career. "I don't know what can happen in the future but I'm going to keep fighting to try to keep going."