Rafael Nadal confuse Casper Road in straight sets Sunday to win his 14th French Open title and 22nd Grand Slam title. But he revealed after the match that he needed an injection in his ailing left foot to be able to play.
Nadal told Eurosport after winning 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 that he had received an injection to numb his foot in Sunday’s final.
“It wasn’t perfect,” he said. “I had a rib stress fracture, then I hit the foot [pain], which stays there the whole time. I had my doctor here – I don’t know how to say in English what we did. We played without feeling the foot, we played with a nerve injection until the foot was asleep – that’s why I was able to play.”
During the cup ceremony, Nadal thanked his family and support team for their help, otherwise he would have needed to “retire much sooner”.
“I don’t know what could happen in the future, but I will keep fighting to try to keep going,” Nadal told the audience.
Nadal revealed during his media presence after the match that he had been undergoing repeated injections into a nerve over the past two weeks at Roland Garros, which numbed the pain in his foot caused by Muller-Weiss syndrome. It is not a long-term solution to a chronic foot problem, and he is expected to see a specialist next week to undergo a new operation – radiofrequency neurectomy.
The success of this procedure will determine whether or not he plays Wimbledon.
“I will be at Wimbledon if my body is ready to be at Wimbledon,” Nadal said. “That’s it. Wimbledon is not a tournament I want to miss. I think no one wants to miss Wimbledon. I love Wimbledon.”
He said if the procedure doesn’t work, he’ll have to decide if he’s willing to undergo major surgery without a guarantee that it will be successful and may require a long recovery time.
But he emphasized that he wouldn’t go through the entire process of getting the injections a day to get him through Wimbledon.
Wimbledon is always a priority [has] It was a priority. If you are able to play with anti-inflammatories? yes. To play with injected anesthesia? No, I don’t want to put myself in this position again. It can happen once, but no, it’s not the life philosophy I want to follow.
“So let’s see. I’m always a positive guy, and I always expect things to go in the right direction. So let’s be confident, and let’s be positive. Then let’s see what happens.”
Nadal’s victory came two days after his 36th birthday and made him the oldest title winner in clay court history. The oldest champion in the tournament’s history was Andres Gimeno, who was 34 when he won in 1972.
Rudd led 3-1 in the second set, a deficit that prompted Nadal to raise his level – he’s had his last 11 games. Nadal lost six matches on Sunday and drew in his second-lowest tally in a major final. He has won six major finals, received fewer than 10 matches, and tied Richard Sears for the most number of players in tennis history.
Given his age and, even more worryingly, the chronic pain in his left foot that has been an intermittent problem for years, Nadal has said repeatedly in recent days that he can never be sure if every match at Court Philippe Chatrier may be his last.
He played crisp and clean, collecting more than twice as many winners as Ruud, 37 to 16. Nadal also made fewer non-force errors, making it just 16 to Ruud’s 26.
When he ended up with a bottom backhand from Nadal, he threw his racket at the red clay he loves so much and covered his face with the fingers clasped on his hands.
The Spanish star’s first victory came in Paris in 2005 at the age of 19. And no man or woman has ever won the Singles Cup in any major event more than his 14th victory in Paris. No one has won more Grand Slam titles than Nadal.
He is two ahead of the competition Roger Federerwho has not played for nearly a year after a series of knee operations, and Novak Djokovicwho missed the Australian Open in January because he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
For all he’s already accomplished, Nadal has now done something he’s never achieved before: He’s halfway to the calendar year’s Grand Slam tournaments thanks to titles at the Australian Open and French Open in the same season.
Nadal improved to 14-0 in the finals at Roland Garros and 112-3 overall in his favorite tournament.
“You are a real inspiration to me, to everyone who follows tennis around the world,” said Ruud, 23 from Norway who is participating in his first Grand Slam final, so I hope – we all hope – you will continue for some time.
When the players met on the net to toss the coin before the match, the first chants of “Ra-fa! Ra-fa!” Ring in the 15,000-seat stadium. There will be more of these choirs. Rudd listened to his own support, especially as he went up briefly in the second set, with some in the stands pointing out the points he won with lengthy advertisements of his last name, “Ruuuuuuud”, which sounded as if they were booing.
Rod Nadal is considered his idol. He remembers watching all of Nadal’s past finals in Paris on TV. He trained at the Nadal Tennis Academy in Mallorca.
They’ve played countless exercise combos together out there and there’s nothing more at stake than bragging rights. Nadal usually wins it, and Rudd joked that day because he was trying to be a polite guest.
The two never met in a real match until Sunday, when the championship, money, ranking points, prestige and a piece of history were on the line. And Nadal has shown, as he has often done, why he is known as the King of Clay – and among the greatest players of all time.
“We all know what a champion you are, and today I have to feel how you’re going to play against you in the final. It’s not easy,” Rudd said. “I’m not the first victim. I know there’s been a lot before.”
Nadal can now put together the latest Coupe des Mousquetaires alongside the trophies he held at Roland Garros from 2005 to 2008, 2010 to 14 and 2017 to 20. He has also won the US Open four times and the Australian Open and Wimbledon twice each.
“For me personally, it is very difficult to describe the feelings that I have,” Nadal said. “It’s something I didn’t believe in, for sure – to be here at 36, to be competitive again, to play on the most preferred court of my career, again in the final. It means a lot to me. It means everything.”
Tom Hamilton of ESPN and The Associated Press contributed to this report.