Rafael Nadal: A Champion Never Before and Probably Never Again for any generation
History was written on Sunday as Rafael Nadal clinched his 22nd Grand Slam title when he beat his challenge, Casper Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0.
The win also saw him win his elusive 14th French Open title, an improbable feat. However, behind those glory times were some hard days as Rafa had to shrug off a foot injury that had almost ended his career. So what inspired ‘The King of Clay’ to go the extra yard and recapture glory?
- Rafael Nadal won his 22nd Grand Slam title on Sunday beating Casper Ruud in the final
- The occasion also marked his 14th Roland Garros win, a record probably won’t be broken
- Nadal’s heroic rise from a career-threatening foot injury has seen him considered to be the greatest player of all time
Sheer determination and self-belief may have been the key to the Spaniard’s success, but behind the scenes, he had a lot of sacrifices to make. Considered one of the greatest players of all time, his tally of 22 Grand Slams is the most by any male player in singles competition while he is ranked joint-third for the most titles in both men’s and women’s combine.
“It’s obvious that with the circumstances that I am playing (in),” Nadal said after the win on Sunday.
“I can’t and I don’t want to keep going,” were the thoughts of the Spaniard when he won the French Open.
Recurrence of old foot injury
Before the start of the Roland Garros, the 36-year-old was knocked out of the Italian Open in the Round of 16. Rafael Nadal suffers from Mueller-Weiss Syndrome, it's a rare degenerative condition that affects bones in the mid and hindfoot and causes chronic pain.
The injury forced him to miss a large chunk of action last year. This syndrome affects the navicular bone on the back of the foot, between the talus and cuneiform bones.
The 14-time Roland Garros champion almost had his career over at one point but then took pain-killing jabs to enter the tournament, highlighting his willpower to compete.
“I had my doctor here with me. I don’t know how to say in English the thing that we did, but we played with no feeling in the foot, with an [pain-killing] injection on the nerve. The foot was asleep, and that’s why I was able to play,” Nadal told Eurosport after the final.
Rising back like a Phoenix
At the start of 2022, Rafael Nadal was considered the shadow of himself; however, a Phoenix rise saw him come from behind and win an epic Australian Open final against Daniil Medvedev in five sets.
Rafael Nadal then went on a run of 20 matches without a defeat. He would then miss the Monte Carlo and Madrid Masters but the Spaniard knew what he was doing.
The day of destiny arrived on Sunday, June 5 when the 36-year-old showed his permanent class to clinch glory.
Playing in his 30th Grand Slam final there was hardly any show of nerves as he swapped Ruud aside to make his claim for the 14th Roland Garros title, showing there was still enough gas left in the tank.
What’s next for Rafael Nadal?
There are now speculations that he may not play in the upcoming Wimbledon Championships, but it’s hard to make a claim as there could be yet another magical moment from the Spaniard as yet another crown Grand Slam title could have his name forged in the coming days.
For now, though it’s fair to say, we are witnessing something special because there has never before and probably never again be a generation that could witness someone lift 14 Grand Slam titles in a single city.