It’s motivating to be around him because you’re talking about a guy who has won everything there is to win and still plays today like it’s the first time he’s playing on the centre court. –Casper Ruud on Rafael Nadal

The master and the apprentice

By Roger Childs

Casper Ruud created history over the weekend at Roland Garros becoming the first Norwegian to reach a grand slam final. However, the final belonged to his opponent the incomparable “King of Clay” Rafael Nadal, who won 6-3 6-3 6-0 to claim his 22nd grand slam title. Once the Spaniard broke Ruud’s serve in the first game the result was never in doubt. 

Growing up with Rafa as his idol and later training at Nadal’s Tennis Academy in Spain Ruud has always had huge respect for the player 13 year his senior. He could have only dreamed of meeting the great man in a grand slam final. 

Not surprisingly, Rafa was far too strong for his young opponent and picked up an amazing 14th title on the Philippe Chatrier Court at Roland Garros. There have been suggestions made that the court should be renamed to honour the Spaniard.

Ruud actually broke Nadal second service game, contributed to many excellent rallies and scored many winners with his strong forehand. But the Spaniard was not going to be denied yet another victory on his favourite court and exhibited his superb retrieval skills, beautifully placed passing shots and strong forehand winners. His volleying and overhead were excellent and he swept Rudd away with his powerful returns and accurate serving in the third set in which he didn’t lose game.

Not many more tournaments?

Nadal has been plagued with an injury to his left foot for years. To get through this year’s final he needed a numbing injection – so the foot was asleep – that’s why I was able to play. 

But he doesn’t want to keep doing that and he will undergo surgery immediately in the hope of being ready for Wimbledon on June 27. If the medical treatment doesn’t do the trick he won’t play. He has hinted a number of times this year that retirement is not far away.

One of the greats

Rafael Nadal is one of the world’s greatest ever athletes. His 22 grand slams put him two ahead of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, and the debate will continue on who is the greatest tennis player of all time. The ATP Finals in December each year pits the top eight men’s players against each other and is almost a fifth grand slam. Nadal has never won it whereas Federer has six titles and Djokovic five.

Most tennis fans are happy to acknowledge the three legends as being in a class of their own and definitely a cut above the rest.