Rafael Nadal won his second grand slam of the season at Roland Garros, following his Australian Open victory earlier in January.
This extends his grand slam record in the men’s game to 22. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic both trail with 20 majors, as the race to become the GOAT edges in Nadal’s favour.
Zverev vs Nadal, 2022 French Open Semi-Finals
Just two days before the final, Nadal’s semi-final match against Alexander Zverev met a sudden and unfortunate end.
The previously agile and swift Zverev had to be wheeled out of Philippe Chatrier on a chair after tearing the ligaments in his right ankle. Returning on crutches, he conceded the match and was applauded by a sympathetic Parisian crowd after a 7-6, 6-6 score.
Nadal’s next opponent, Casper Ruud, broke into the top 10 in May and the Roland Garros final would be Ruud’s first match against Nadal with no prior encounters.
Ruud won his semi-final match against Marin Cilic, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, with a blend of power from the baseline and elegant moments of touch and feel, particularly on the drop-shot.
But going into his first slam final, no doubt Ruud would have needed time to adjust mentally. Nadal opened the match on his serve and held comfortably.
On Ruud’s first service game, perhaps feeling some nerves, he dashed the net, only for Nadal’s forehand to fire a blistering passing shot for a 2-0 lead.
Though Ruud broke back the next game, Nadal swiftly reasserted his dominance and broke again for 3-1.
Nadal closed out the first set, 6-3, by constantly attacking Ruud’s backhand. Expecting a change in direction that never came, Ruud would sometimes step in the wrong direction and lose time to set his feet for an effective groundstroke.
Nadal vs Rudd, 2022 French Open Final
Nadal kept pinning his opponent on the ad-side before using his topspin forehand to hit into open space for a winner. Nadal was pretty consistent from the line, while Ruud made some wild groundstroke shots, with 26 unforced errors to Nadal’s 18.
If he denied Nadal a foothold in the rally, Ruud had some success, using a complex and flat serve to keep the Spaniard back and quickly win the point with his forehand. But the longer the exchange went, the more Nadal came forward from his return position and commanded the rally with the heavy topspin from his forehand or the sharp angles from his backhand. Overall, Nadal made 37 winners to Ruud’s 18.
After winning the second set 6-3, all of Ruud’s defences seemed to crumble. Gaining confidence, and with Ruud’s groundstrokes steadily reducing in speed, Nadal had time to step onto his front foot and hit backhand winners into his opponent’s deuce side.
Whenever Nadal was pushed back, he increased the height of the ball to bide him some time and regain any lost ground. Nadal would wait until Ruud made an error or hit a short ball to pounce on. The Spaniard now increased his attacks to Ruud’s forehand, where he had left swathes of court undefended. Finally, at 0-5 on his first match-point, Nadal took an early backhand down the line, sealing his 22nd major.
Does Nadal’s grand slam victories this year portend further success at Wimbledon? Will Djokovic be able to regroup in time to win his 21st major instead? And how long will Casper Ruud remain a top 10 player and challenge the greats in key tournaments? Leave your comments below.