And despite everything, he, Nadal.
The 14th investiture of the Spaniard arrives against all odds, against all logic, after a tortuous preparatory process and the hardships caused by that damned scaphoid, that congenital injury that trips him daily and that, despite everything, he can’t handle. the. Whatever happens, in Paris the stars align. The Spaniard, 36 years old and a thousand battles behind him, with a bruised body, resolves the final against Casper Ruud without hesitation (6-3, 6-3 and 6-0, in 2 hours and 18 minutes) and raises his 22nd Grand Slam, two ahead of the Swiss Roger Federer and the Serbian Novak Djokovic, who witness it from the armchair. He rises again, the oldest champion in the history of the French great, 92 trophies already in the showcases and two majors of two in this 2022, and gives a new twist to reason. He pulverizes it. His uncle preaches it: don’t kill Rafael anymore. Not yet.
Everything accompanies Nadal, from minute zero. Even the weather does it, which before such an important day rectifies and backs down from the start: contrary to forecasts, the clouds do not spit out water in the 16th district and even the sun timidly peeks out at the beginning, always so desired by the Majorcan. He is fabulously warm in the heat and also in the support of the stands, which receives him with a thunderous ovation and sings the anthem of these days, which not the one of other times: “Ra-fa, Ra-fa, Ra -fa!”. From there it goes to beautiful bye, but not even for those can Ruud recover the lost place, a partisan, resilient and combative, very academic in the exchanges but absorbed almost immediately. He has barely started the story and is already rowing against it. Uphill and only 10 minutes have passed.
Of course, not a bad face from the Norwegian, who was penalized by the rival’s mystique and the magnitude of the event in the early stages. Excessively docile. Playing the same as Nadal, the outcome is written in advance; from you to you, the challenger will always lose; very good manners, yes, but good old Casper responds with blank bullets and the Spaniard begins to salivate every time the exchange gets a little tangled because in that territory he has everything to win. With no back-up plan to harm him, the match results in a comfortable parade to the 14th Musketeers Cup. TIC Tac, TIC Tac, TIC Tac, and the Balearic Islands emitting those ripped roars of good omen. The soundtrack of spring in the Bois de Boulogne.
Ruud finds it difficult to calibrate, it takes him a while to wake up his arm and, as if that were not enough, he quickly perceives that today’s script has only one meaning and that the French public considers it a mere element of props, the necessary transition between what is desired and what materializes. already lost the first set and Nadal, who has not required great brilliance, but practicality and essentially good work to score it, roams freely through the center and entertains himself moving the ball of wool from one side to another, feline instinct, shark bite. The Great White of tennis. A stage to ask for. He knows the boy perfectly, who entered his academy at 19 and admired him at 14 from the Chatrier stands, a lot of respect involved. The Norwegian is an exemplary student, for whom rebellion lasts a sigh.
A crusher of rivals
Sounds from a side tribune a “Long live Spain!” sonorous, and has continuity in the opposite: “And long live the King!”. The cry is repeated a couple of times, as if it were Las Ventas. But seeing that the duel can end too quickly and that the final is losing too much crumb, the respectable Parisian slaps the Nordic on the back, who thanks the hood (with guttural acoustics, “Ruuuuuuuuuud!”) and, suddenly raise your voice: 3-1 up in the second. A mirage. 3-4 behind. Whatever he does, Nadal will always be there to hit the ball harder, to arrive a little earlier and to return one more. There is no more law in Chatrier than his, master and lord, the man who dresses in pistachio and eats all his opponents in bite-sized pieces.
The list is long, there are 14 names: Puerta, Federer (4), Soderling, Djokovic (3), Ferrer, Wawrinka, Thiem (2) and now Ruud, the last on the list of illustrious men who tried. No one has been able to get it. Not in a final. When he has the prey ahead, Nadal does not fail, whether it can be cold or hot, rain, hail or snow, there is more or less humidity, ceiling or not. Does not matter. Whatever the format and whatever the opposition, it almost always ends up breaking through. Only three exceptions, those of Soderling (2009) and Nole (2015 and 2021); the rest, a shredder. A rival mincer. 112 wins in 115 games (97.3%). Only Bjorn Borg, a source of inspiration, achieved a similar percentage in Paris, where the legendary Swede, the enigmatic block of ice, claimed six titles and 49 of the 51 pulses (96%) that he played between 1973 and 1981. An outrageous . And higher than the Balearic.
There is no need for heroism in this crossover with Ruud. The young man, sixth in the world, his ascension is very praiseworthy and the one who has achieved the most victories (66), the most finals (9) and the most titles (7) in the last two years on clay, signs a double fault and delivers a second set which he has refuted with more honor than conviction. He wants to, but he can’t. There is no way. He has style, punches, physique and appetite, but by stepping onto the court he has hit a dead end. He appropriates Nadal in the afternoon and finishes off this latest epic without distractions, in a straight line, from start to finish. Seriously, seriously, the left foot is not for comics and tomorrow is just around the corner, and the Majorcan still has the bug and adrenaline runs through his body. He wants even more, he doesn’t give up. He persists and insists. How far can he go? An unknown.
Craft, epic, burst and candy
In any case, this tournament and this course express evidence: there is no better competitor than him, who despite having spent three and a half years bitterly prostrated in the infirmary —accounting for injuries and setbacks of all kinds, from the knees to the appendix— , looks alone at the top. He started the season looking askance at the settlement and landed in the great French with many more questions than certainties, without having won a single trophy on land and after the umpteenth blow from Müller-Weiss; however, at the moment of truth, nobody has been able to beat him.
Daniil Medvedev was diluted by his greatness in Australia and Djokovic melted like a sugar cube in Tuesday’s quarters. Far from the best version of him, Nadal has been imposing himself on everything and everyone, skillfully at the start, epic against Felix Augger Aliassime and an extraordinary initial burst against the Serbian; he benefited from the misfortune of the badly injured Zverev and Ruud was a candy in the final episode, a very harsh corrective for him in the final sleeve.
This last trip ends with a backhand that kisses the corridor line and the hug arrives at the net, felt because Casper, the applied boy from the academy, is a very good guy and the thread hurts. Nadal gets emotional, his sister Maribel cries her eyes out and congratulates his team at the box. It happens again, against all odds, as much as the king is the king. Against any logic and everything speculated over the last few weeks, Paris returns to acclaim the imperishable champion.
And despite everything, he, Nadal.
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