Enter a little more into the story. Rafael Nadal can win his 22nd Grand Slam on Sunday June 5, a 14th at Roland-Garros. Opposed to Casper Ruud, surprise finalist and eighth player in the world, the Spaniard will face a novice at this stage of the competition. At 23, the Norwegian will discover, on the Philippe-Chatrier court, the honors of a Major final. “The match, on paper, is very unbalanced”comments Patrick Mouratoglou, France Télévisions consultant and trainer of Simona Halep and Serena Williams.
FIRST GRAND SLAM FINAL
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“Nadal has the ideal match, because he faces a player who plays the same tennis as him but who, obviously, is much weaker than him in this game”underlines the former coach of Stefanos Tsitsipas. “Ruud has a big weak point which is the backhand. It’s perfect for Nadal, with his left-handed game, who is used to locking his opponents on the backhand side better than anyone”he adds.
This match is also a duel between two clay court specialists, even if the Norwegian’s record seems very meager compared to that of the “Bull of Manacor”. His eight titles in ATP 250 (fourth class of tournament), all won on the ocher surface, do not weigh very heavily against the 62 trophies on clay (out of 91 in total) of Rafael Nadal.
The two players have had very different journeys over the past two weeks before meeting in the final. The host had to eliminate Félix Auger-Aliassime (world No. 9), Novak Djokovic (No. 1 and defending champion) and Alexander Zverev (No. 3), after particularly intense matches. “He had a table of enormous difficulty, it’s a feat to see him in the final”reacts Patrick Mouratoglou.
“It was very hard to imagine him in the final because his preparation was truncated due to injuries and then it was difficult to do worse as part of the draw.”Patrick Mouratoglou, trainer
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Conversely, Casper Ruud did not meet a single top 10 player to reach the final, benefiting in particular from the early eliminations of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev. His highest ranked opponent in this edition, before the final, was the Pole Hubert Hurkacz (n°13 at the ATP).
Passed between the drops, the native of Oslo could take advantage of this advantage as the Majorcan seems to have drawn on his resources. “You have the impression that he arrives in the final tired, after a lot of tough matches both physically and mentally. He lived the semi-final against Zverev as an ordeal because he was dominated the whole match and abused . He was in pain and struggle”analyzes Patrick Mouratoglou.
NADAL’S FIRST SET!
Nadal capsizes the Philippe-Chatrier court with happiness by winning the first set 10-8 in the tie break.
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Casper Ruud will therefore have to do everything to exhaust his opponent who only lost three times at Roland-Garros, but never in the final. “He’s going to have to have a real strategy if he wants to beat Rafa because he can’t rely on his qualities alone. I think Zverev has opened doors with exceptional movement, a big defense. He’s going to have to enter the court with a very clear vision and strategy and execute them to perfection”warns Mouratoglou.
But Nadal’s true rival may not be on the other side of the net. Hampered by a rare foot condition for months, Rafael Nadal has a big threat in his shoe to prevent him from adding a brilliant new line to his record.
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