the 14th very special jewel in the crown of King Rafael Nadal

the 14th very special jewel in the crown of King Rafael Nadal

There are truths that are meant to be immutable. Like this: Rafael Nadal is unrivaled among his peers when it comes to bouncing a small yellow ball on ocher clay, especially at Roland-Garros. For the 14th time, this truth has imposed itself.

The “Bull of Manacor” lifted the Musketeers cup into the Parisian sky once again, but not once too many. Nadal has pushed the boundaries of hegemony a little further, the one that, a year earlier, might have seemed to belong to the past.

On June 11, 2021, the clay-court winning machine had indeed stalled. Rafael Nadal stumbled over Novak Djokovic in an exceptional semi-final. Like a double penalty, he also saw his health becoming a handicap too great to be swept away with a backhand of the racket. The Müller-Weiss syndrome was eating away at a bone in his right foot and the time remaining to write the rest of his story.

However, with great care, perseverance, and an inexplicable je-ne-sais-quoi that makes the DNA of the greatest, Nadal is once again at the top on earth. Certainly, the Majorcan is perhaps not as irresistible as during his most dazzling triumphs. Félix Auger-Aliassime pushed him to the fifth set. Alexander Zverev dominated him in the game, the German cracking at key moments, before ending in tears, his ankle loose and his step supported by crutches. The Spaniard has experienced such a situation only too well in recent months, which makes this 14th title even stronger.

“His preparation was really truncated with a stress fracture in his ribs and his foot problem. He arrived with fewer games, fewer wins than usual and could not train enough. We knew that he was not in the best condition and he had an abominable table, so it’s a real achievement that he did”explains Patrick Mouratoglou, consultant for France Télévisions.

Spaniard Rafael Nadal wins the Roland-Garros tournament for the 14th time in his career, on June 5, 2022 in Paris.  (CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

Repetition has a delicious flavor when the Mallorcan is the author. It’s the privilege of legends, you never really get tired of it. Because Rafael Nadal always puts so much heart into it. Because none of his opponents give him a gift. Because he is far from the only monster of his generation. Because his body is doing everything for the series to end. If the Australian Open, at the start of the season, had already looked like a resurrection, this new coronation is a homecoming. Where Nadal should be.

It was Porte d’Auteuil that the man from the Canary Islands paved his way towards an almost unchallenged reign on a surface yet so difficult to tame. Since 2005 and his first masterpiece 17 years ago to the day, Nadal has known it all: the trophies, the weeks spent as world number one, the fantastic rivalries. Invariably, a successful year went through a victory at Roland-Garros.

Novak Djokovic can boast of a certain stranglehold in Australia (9 titles). Roger Federer and Martina Navratilova have flowered their English garden well at Wimbledon (8 and 9 crowns). But none of his records reached the “nadalesque” peaks on the land of Roland-Garros: 112 matches won. 97.4% wins (100% in 14 finals). Out of 74 opponents beaten, only 16 took a set from him. He won four of his titles without losing a single set, which no other player has done in their entire Major career.

So last Roland-Garros or not, Rafael Nadal has already done so much on clay not to have to worry about the mark he will leave in the annals. “What is certain is that it is the greatest at Roland-Garros”assures Mary Pierce, consultant for France Télévisions.

A sign of longevity, his opponent on Sunday, the Norwegian Casper Ruud, was 6 years old when Rafael Nadal won his first title. The latter has become the oldest winner of Roland-Garros, after having been one of the earliest.

With information from Maël Russeau (franceinfo: sport)

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