History repeats itself in Paris, the commotion returns. The tradition. The races and the stress throughout the compound. The journalists and all the workers of Roland Garros come and go because it is the prelude to the final and, above all, because the king returns to it, the admired and recognized champion – “Rafa, Rafa, Rafa”, the stands bellowed on Friday– who lost his place last year and wants to regain it today (3:00 p.m., Eurosport and DMAX) in the final against Casper Ruud. Everything goes at full speed and in the end, not oblivious but abstracted, the one who handles the situation with greater aplomb is Nadal himself, who walks with a firm step and a good countenance through the space in which the special envoys work, mentally polishing how will address the big day and how to disarm the Norwegian, who is attending as a novice. Wolf with sheep’s skin. There is a magnificent player there on clay.
“A candidate in all the tournaments he plays on this surface,” underlines the Spaniard, the man who this afternoon could become the longest-serving winner of the great Frenchman – ahead of Andrés Gimeno, who triumphed 50 years ago when he was 34 – and eternal redeemer. He punishes his foot, he arrived in Paris in the right mood and he can’t compete with the regularity he would like, but adversity doesn’t find the formula. There is no way or way to knock down the irreducible Nadal, who closed the previous day with a bad face, still with the scare in his body due to the unpleasant misfortune of Alexander Zverev in the semifinals – “I think I have several torn ligaments”, explained yesterday the German–, and that whatever the problem, he ends up finding the solution. With all of you, Mr. Wolf (Harvey Keitel in pulp fiction) of the racket. No matter what happens, here I am.
No matter how inclement he has before him, especially in Paris, Nadal ends up getting around it. He arrived with hardly any filming at the tournament and disconsolate, but he arrived on time. He seldom does not get it. It happened in Australia, and the outcome is already known; It could happen again in the Bois de Boulogne, but the finishing touch is missing against Ruud, who bursts in with all the enthusiasm in the world, a good guy too, but who looks to history and has already lost the first point of the match: Nadal’s 13 finals, 13 titles. There is no margin for error, and very little throughout the tour: 111 wins and only three losses, for his 13 and 4. too much difference. Or maybe not, who knows. Tennis hides a thousand traps and a thousand surprises, so the Mallorcan team does not trust a single hair of the Nordic. Because nobody forgets the devastating Swede: Robin Soderling, 2009. The warning light is on.
“I would say that Ruud is the tennis player with the most ground game on the circuit. It is a game that tends to extinction, after the balls and tracks have been unified. We have all-terrain tennis players, and he goes a little out of that. We will see a battle at the back of the court, with long exchanges”, predicts Nadal’s coach, Carlos Moyà, warned against a deceptive rival. Ruud is not illuminated by the spotlights, but if there is a tennis player who handles the codes of the land well – Dominic Thiem disappeared and Stefanos Tsitsipas out of action, apart from others with a more modest profile – that is him. The applied Ruud.
A tennis player on the edge
In any case, in the case of Nadal, a final and the Chatrier, the outcome of this last episode will fundamentally depend on how the Balearic reacts, who goes to the limit and tries to park the pain, but who accumulates considerable wear and tear. In the last three duels, against Felix Auger Aliassime, Novak Djokovic and Zverev, he spent a whopping 11h 44m on the court. It is his turn, once again, to overcome physically and mentally, although the stimulus is too juicy to let it escape: if he wins, he will win his 14th Parisian trophy and his 22nd Grand Slam.
“It gave him a bit of a downturn. She normally recovers from these situations. he had a rival [Zverev] that, even being a little irregular, when it’s good it doesn’t let you do many things. Honestly, I didn’t have them all with me”, says Moyà. “But you always expect Rafa to get something that isn’t there, although the situation wasn’t easy. Every match he saves is transformation into another player. That gives us a lot of confidence that he can overcome adversity.”
Trust your environment to recover and respond as usual. Nadal (36 years old) has the unparalleled ability to reinvent himself on the fly and to resolve emergencies as usual. Far away is the single record and now, faced with the conflict, he opens the closet and changes his suit like the chameleon. So easy, so hard. “I will not get tired of saying it. This is Roland Garros, this is Rafa Nadal. So to the death”, points out Moyà, who looks to the other shore and remembers Ruud: “Meeting yourself with someone super consecrated is not usually easy”. And the Norwegian continues: “Playing against him here is the challenge of challenges.”
History is cyclical, everything repeats itself. Everything returns. The tingling, the convulsion of the last day. He is the king before another final. The Nordic saw him on television, he portrayed himself at the age of 14 in the stands before that 2013 coronation against David Ferrer. “Yes, I’ve seen them all, and now I’m here.” It’s Nadal and that first time in Paris. June 5, 2005. And he is there again.