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Seeing it has something magical: it is as if Nadal was able to return to the best version of himself

Seeing it has something magical: it is as if Nadal was able to return to the best version of himself

Seeing it has something magical: it is as if Nadal was able to return to the best version of himself

The story of Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros is the most impressive of all that an athlete has been able to write in a specific scenario: he was precocious (he won the first of his French titles at the age of 19) and he is long-lived (if he manages to beat Casper Ruud will be the oldest man to lift the salad bowl in Paris). If it needed development, the consistency of his successes over two decades would require several pages of this diary. But one fact helps to understand the magnitude of his feat: of the 13 times he was crowned king of Paris, he did it 4 times without giving up a single set. He is simply unrepeatable.

This year, despite the recurrent injury that afflicts him in his left foot, Nadal has shown a game that, although it has not been overwhelming, has known how to be decisive. There is a difference. Although the Spaniard was able to overcome the first rounds without difficulty against smaller rivals, since he faced top 10 tennis players he suffered. With Auger-Aliassime he prevailed in 5 sets in a match where he showed gaps; against Djokovic, in 4 sets, he prevailed with difficulty after 4 hours (both made a tribute to their own rivalry in tennis at the highest level); Finally, against Zverev, even before misfortune retired the German due to a sprained ankle, there was no clear margin for either, despite the Spaniard’s obvious signs of fatigue (he gave up his serve five times in two sets). In all cases, however, Nadal managed to make the difference, however small, work in his favor, and he did so by winning the important points.

There is something magical about seeing it. In the decisive tie-break or set point against it is as if the Spaniard was capable of returning to the best version of himself: the defense turns into an attack with a “passing shot” that leaves the opponent confused at the net; baseline exchange is resolved with a lethal dropshot with backspin or sidespin or both; the irregularity in the serve turns, in the hottest moment of the game, in ace… How is it possible to dose the resources to deploy them when they are most needed? Is this form of sports maturity the next level of mental toughness?

Today, against Casper Ruud, Nadal is an exaggerated favourite. The Norwegian is an up-and-coming value, with a taste for clay, where he has won 7 of the 8 titles he has won throughout his brief career (all ATP 250). He has excellent mobility and the hypothetical ceiling of youth, but these seem insufficient resources against who is the greatest of all time on clay. Roland Garros was traditionally a stage for surprises, in which hard court specialists suffered their ranking against slow court and wet ball experts. But Nadal turned that uncertainty into a barely interrupted individual hegemony that only spreads.

The Norwegian will have the most difficult challenge: to show that he was not the simple winner of a friendly draw that concentrated the talent in the opposite half of the draw. The Spanish, the most beautiful challenge there is: confirm that his romance with Paris is a love for life.

Rafael Nadal – 36 years oldCasper Ruud – 23 years old
ranking5 ATP8 ATP
ATP titles918 (all ATP 125)
Grand Slam21 titlesfirst final

Source: Elcomercio

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