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French Open: Men's Final Review

Rafael Nadal proved his status as the "King of Clay" once more after he powered to a straight-sets victory over Casper Ruud to lift the French Open title for a 14th time.

The 36-year-old always looked in control against his inexperienced counterpart and won 6-3 6-3 6-0 in jsut under two-and-a-half hours.

It is yet another remarkable chapter in the career of the Spaniard who now moves on to 22 Grand Slam titles - more than any other male player in the history of the sport.

His next challenge will be to try and win Wimbledon for a third time following his wins in 2008 and 2010 and he can be backed to do so at 7/1, while he is priced at 5/2 to win a 15th title in France next year.

Peerless Nadal cruises to another win

Nadal was always a heavy favourite going into the final against number eight seed Ruud, who was making his first final appearance in any Grand Slam.

Despite suffering from a chronic foot injury for much of his later career and also a stress rib fracture which kept him out for two months following his Australian Open triumph at the start of 2022, Nadal at least gave the impression he was physically in top shape throughout the final, not wnating to offer the Norwegian any encouragement.

Even though he wasn't at his absolute sparkling best, he still had more than enough quality and big-game nous to down the 23-year-old, who can be proud of his efforts nonetheless as he became the first Norwegian to contest a Grand Slam singles final.

Ruud's miscue for the first point of the match perhaps showcased his nerves heading into the showpiece and Nadal was able to pick him off thereafter.

It wasn't completely flawless - a double fault in the first set allowed Ruud to break but as the match wore on, Nadal started to dominate as he so often has in the French capital.

The 6-0 scoreline in the final set was indicative of a player who is a master of his craft against an opponent who will hope to emulate him one day.

Nadal, who had cleverly targeted Ruud's backhand throughout, dropped his racquet on the Paris clay in disbelief after stroking the winning shot, despite having won this title 13 times previously.

He has won 112 of his 115 matches at the venue and, just two days after celebrating his 36th birthday, he made it back-to-back majors for the first time since 2010 when he won the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open.

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Nadal overcomes hurdles to win

The Spaniard's run to the final showcased his true grit, ability, and determination to win and also why he has been unmatched on clay over the years.

After easing past Jordan Thompson, Coretin Moutet, and Botic van de Zandschuip in the first three rounds respectively, Nadal was put under serious pressure by Felix Auger-Aliassime in round four as the Canadian took the first set 6-3.

He won the next two sets but his challenger took set four to force a rare occasion where Nadal had to win a decider to advance through to the next round, but the master ultimately proved too strong and won 6-3.

Round five saw a meeting of two of the game's greats in Nadal and Novak Djokovic and it could have been an indicator that Nadal's powers were waning.

Indeed, Djokovic displayed his own class in the second set to level up but Nadal took the contest by three sets to one in a match which went on into the night - revenge for losing to the Serbian in last year's semi-final.

Luck was then on the Spaniard's side in the semi-finals - with Nadal needing a tie-break to go one set up before the second set was poised at 6-6, his opponent Alexander Zverev collapsed to the ground in agony and had to retire injured, with subsequent scans showing he had damaged his ankle ligaments.

However, there was no disputing the outcome of the final with Nadal lifting the Coupe des Mousquetaires once more.

Ruud can take heart from run

While Nadal will rightly and expectedly take all the headlines and plaudits, Ruud can also be proud of his efforts.

Prior to Sunday's final, the furthest he had one in any of the four Slam events was the fourth round in last year's Australian Open.

In 2022, he has won two ATP 250 Series events and reached the final of the Miami Open in April, losing to another Spaniard in Carlos Alcaraz.

However, this was the first indication that he could perform at the highest level in the most high-pressure environment of them all.

Stand-out performances during his run to the final include a gruelling five-setter against Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals which saw him win the decider 7-6 (10-2), while he also recovered from a set down to defeat Marin Cilic 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-2 in the last four.

However, he was ultimately outclassed by, statistically at least, the best player to have ever played the sport.

Wimbledon next?

Ruud's time may come but Sunday proved that even in the twilight of his long, illustrious, trophy-laden career, Rafael Nadal still has so much more to give to tennis.

However, injuries have started to have more of an impact on the Spanish star's ability to play in tournaments, let alone challenge for titles and the grass-court season has not always been a possibility.

His ongoing battle with a chronic foot problem means there is no guarantee that Nadal will feature in the next Grand Slam at Wimbledon.

Defending champion Djokovic is the 10/11 favourite to win for a seventh time, while rising star Ruud has not previously shown a liking for grass, having failed to make it past the first round in two previous visits, and is 100/1 to go one better than his Paris run.

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