PARIS — The king of Spain was in the stands of Roland Garros on Sunday. So was the king of Norway, so was Billie Jean King. They had all come to see the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, and he did not disappoint.
Under a beautiful Paris sky, Nadal won his 14th French open title, beating Casper Ruud of Norway, 6-3, 6-3, 6-0. He’s won this tournament for the 14th time, having won all but four years since 2005. Nadal’s track record here is less a statistic than it is a laugh line. He’s now 112-3 at Roland Garros. He has won the French open as many times as Pete Sampras has won majors. By winning, he now has his 22nd Grand Slam title, surging ahead of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, who are tied at 20. Nadal’s record in finals is now 23 of his last 26. Apart from all his tennis sorcery, this is one of the great competitors in the history of sports—any sport and all sports.
For all his breathtaking tennis, Nadal’s road this year may have been his most difficult. Nevermind the foot injury that cast doubt upon his performance and caused him to speak about his tennis mortality, this 2022 French Open marked the first time he ever needed to beat four top 10 opponents to win the title. In the fourth round, he beat Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada in five sets. It was a grueling match made more so by the fact that his opponent is coached by Nadal’s uncle Tony. He returned two days later to beat his rival Djokovic in their 59th career match, a four-setter that went well beyond midnight. In the semifinals, he won the first set against Alexander Zverev and then won when the third-seeded German gruesomely rolled his ankle.
For all that drama, Nadal was at his Nadal-est on Sunday, doing what he usually does: breaking serve—he took Ruud’s serve apart in six of the first 10 service games; bringing his lefty funk to bear; and simply owning this court as if it is his own, which of course it is.
Spare a thought for Ruud here. Playing deep into a major for the first time, the 23-year-old from Norway acquitted himself well and—despite the lopsided score line—did not even play that badly. He simply was playing the best clay court player of all time, who was in form. Ruud is now ranked a career high No. 6 and we will hear much more from him. But today was about Nadal and his excellence.
This was as much a coronation as a match. And now there is suspense over whether, at age 36, he will ever play again—here or elsewhere. But the fans got what they came for. So did the various kings. The King of Clay still reigns, for a 14th-straight time.
More Tennis Coverage: