Rafael Nadal won a 14th French Open with daily pain-killing injections in his troublesome left foot and will now attempt to find a permanent cure for the injury, warning his record-breaking career is on the line.
Nadal, 36, routed Casper Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in Sunday’s final at Roland Garros to extend his Grand Slam title record to 22, with victory coming 17 years to the day since he claimed his first French Open as a 19-year-old in 2005.
The oldest winner in Paris, he had not been certain of taking part after a chronic left foot injury, which has plagued him throughout his career, flared up again.
In the aftermath of Sunday’s victory, Nadal revealed he and his medical team are facing a potentially make-or-break week.
“It’s obvious that with circumstances that I am playing, I can’t and I don’t want to keep going. I’m going to keep working to try to find a solution and an improvement for what’s happening in the foot,” said Nadal.
Nadal said that taking anaesthetic injections in the nerves in his foot was the only way he could have got through the French Open.
Now his medical team will attempt to burn the nerves using a technique which he described as “radio frequency injections”.
“If it works, I keep going. If not, it will be another story and I will ask myself if I am ready to do a major surgery which may not guarantee I will be competitive and may take a long time to be back.”
With Wimbledon just three weeks away, Nadal is facing a race against time.
He was champion at the All England Club in 2008 and 2010. Should he win the title again, he would be three-quarters of the way to a first men’s calendar Grand Slam since 1969.
“I love Wimbledon. So if you ask me if I will be in Wimbledon, I can’t give you a clear answer. Let’s see how the treatment works,” he said.
“If I am able to play with anti-inflammatories, yes; to play with anaesthetic injections, no. I don’t want to put myself in that position again.”
Nadal’s two-hour 18-minute romp on Sunday took his record at the tournament to 112 wins against just three losses.
“The most important thing is to congratulate Rafa,” said Ruud.
“You are a true champion. This is the first time I have faced you so now I know what it’s like to be the victim! There will be many others.
“You have taken me into your academy with open arms and you are a true inspiration to me. We all hope you continue for some more time.”
Nadal, unbeaten in 13 previous finals in Paris and playing in his 30th Grand Slam decider, got off to a flying start against Ruud, the first Norwegian man to feature in a championship match at the majors.
He broke for 2-0 and even though he handed the break straight back courtesy of a two uncharacteristic double faults, he was quickly back in front again for 3-1.
The Spaniard wrapped up the opener in 49 minutes against his 23-year-old opponent who has trained at his academy in Manacor since 2018.
World number eight Ruud, the in-form player on clay since the start of 2020 with 66 wins on the surface, was under siege again in the second set, having to fight off three break points in the opening game.
– 37 winners –
There was a sudden glimmer of hope when he broke for 3-1 with Nadal again coughing up a double fault. However, Nadal roared back with a double break for 4-3.
Ruud saved three set points in the ninth game but his first double fault of the final handed Nadal a two-set lead.
Nadal had said on the eve of the final that he would rather lose Sunday’s match in exchange for a new foot.
However, without needing to hit top gear, he was in complete control against Ruud, racing away to the title with three breaks in a third set which was over in 30 minutes.
Nadal sealed the win with a backhand down the line, his 37th winner of the final.
Earlier Sunday, Coco Gauff suffered a second heartbreaking French Open final defeat when she and American partner Jessica Pegula were beaten by Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic in the women’s doubles final.
The French pair won 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 to add the 2022 title to their 2016 Roland Garros triumph.
On Saturday, 18-year-old Gauff had lost the singles final at Roland Garros in straight sets to Iga Swiatek of Poland.
“Hopefully, we can win one in the future,” Gauff told the crowd and praised the atmosphere.
“The band was pretty cool, I thought I was at an American football game.”