Newcomer Casper Ruud takes on 'King of Clay' Rafael Nadal in French Open 2022 final
- Rafael Nadal will face Casper Ruud in the final of the 2022 French Open
- Ruud beat Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in the semi-final
- Nadal advanced to the final after Alexander Zverev injured his ankle mid match
Casper Ruud was six years old when Rafael Nadal won his first French Open title, his maiden Grand Slam, in 2005. The Norwegian will take on the 'King of Clay', a man with 13 triumphs in Paris, at the Roland Garros final on Sunday.
Ruud, who is 23, became the first Norwegian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final, when he eliminated 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. He has trained at Nadal's tennis academy in Spain and refers to the 36-year-old Spaniard as his idol.
Nadal, on the other hand, celebrated his 36th birthday on Friday. The 21-time Grand Slam winner is the second-oldest man to get to the title match in Paris; Don Budge was 37 when he was the runner-up in 1930. The oldest champion in tournament history was Andres Gimeno, 34 when he won in 1972.
Coming into the French Open, the Spanish veteran's left foot, that aches quite often, was giving him some problem.
“It’s not about things that you need to prove. It’s about how much you enjoy doing what you are doing — or, if you don’t enjoy, then it’s another story,” said Nadal.
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He advanced to the final after beating third-seeded Alexander Zverev. The German ran to to chase a shot in the second set and twisted his right ankle. He crumpled to the ground, wailing in agony and clutching at his lower leg.
“But if you like what you are doing, you keep going. ... I keep playing because I like what I do. So that’s it,” Nadal continued. “Of course I enjoy (it). And if I am healthy enough to play, I like the competition, honestly. I like to play in the best stadiums of the world and feel myself, at my age, still competitive. Means a lot to me. That makes me feel in some way proud and happy about all the work that we did," Nadal said after the win in the semi-final.
Ruud has a brilliant record on clay. He has 66 match wins and seven titles on the surface since the start of the 2020 season.
“I will need to play my best tennis ever,” said Ruud, who never had been past the fourth round of a major until this week. “But I still have to believe that I can do it," the 23-year-old said.