Rafael Nadal, a 13-time French Open champion, takes on Casper Ruud, a trainee at the Rafa Nadal Tennis Academy, in the men’s final of Roland Garros 2022 on Sunday.

In his on-court interview after his semifinal win, Norwegian Ruud said, "He has played so many finals, but at least he is playing a student from his academy this time. So, it is going to be a fun one hopefully.”

Nadal has reached the final after battling it out for more than three hours, saving four set points before clinching the opener 7-6 (8) and coming back from a break down to force the tiebreaker in the second before his opponent, German world number three Alexander Zverev, was forced to retire due to a horrible ankle injury.

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Ruud is the first Norwegian man ever and the first Scandinavian man since 2010 to reach a Grand Slam final after he came back from a set down to beat Croatian Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. Sweden's Robin Soderling was the last Scandinavian male tennis player to reach the final of a Major when he lost to Nadal at the French Open in 2010. In 2009, Soderling had subjected Nadal to his first ever defeat at Roland Garros during their fourth round match.

While Ruud and Nadal have never faced each other, the two often practice together at Nadal's Academy in Mallorca. The last first-time meeting in a Grand Slam men’s final was Novak Djokovic vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the 2008 Australian Open while the last first-time meeting in a Roland Garros men’s final was Gustavo Kuerten vs Sergi Bruguera in 1997.

Both Nadal and Ruud play with a heavy top spin and bank on their forehand to do the damage.

Ruud has been in impressive form on clay this season, winning titles in Buenos Aires and Geneva with an overall win-loss record of 15-5 before coming to Paris. On the other hand, Nadal missed most of the clay court season due to a rib injury sustained at Indian Wells Masters. Nadal played only two clay events - Madrid Masters (where he lost to his younger compatriot and teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz in quarterfinals) and Italian Open (where his left foot issue flared up midway through his third round loss to Canadian Denis Shapovalov). With a big serve and strong ground strokes, world No. 8 Ruud can threaten to stage a coup as Nadal continues to manage the pain in his foot.

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Rafael Nadal vs Casper Ruud: Win-loss record on clay this season (before French Open)

 

This could very well be Nadal's final Slam. The Spaniard, on being asked about his preference between winning the title and getting a new foot, chose the latter after his semifinal match. He said, "Without a doubt, I'd prefer to lose the final."

"My opinion does not change. A new foot would allow me to be happier in my daily life. Winning is very nice and gives you an adrenaline rush, but it's temporary and then you have to go on living. I have a life ahead of me and in the future I would love to play sports with my friends. My happiness goes ahead of any title.

Records on offer (courtesy ATP):

Time spent on court across six rounds

Nadal: 18 hours 8 minutes

Ruud: 18 hours 2 minutes

(With inputs from Reuters)