Rafael Nadal, Looking Unbeatable, Wins 14th French Open Title

Rafael Nadal, Looking Unbeatable, Wins 14th French Open Title

Nadal extended his men’s singles record of 22 Grand Slam tournament titles with a win in straight sets over the eighth-seeded Casper Ruud.

Nadal extended his men’s singles record of 22 Grand Slam tournament titles with a win in straight sets over the eighth-seeded Casper Ruud.

PARIS — He fooled us again, which is, in itself, quite a feat at this stage of the game.

PARIS — He fooled us again, which is, in itself, quite a feat at this stage of the game.

Perhaps Rafael Nadal really means it when he downplays his chances at Roland Garros, and there was certainly no fakery involved last month when he limped and grimaced through the final set of an early-round defeat at the Italian Open and sounded particularly weary of the grind and the chronic pain in his left foot.

Nadal did indeed find himself in unfamiliar territory as he returned to his favorite stomping ground of Roland Garros. He was very short on clay-court matches and without any clay-court titles this season as the tournament began.

Nadal did indeed find himself in unfamiliar territory as he returned to his favorite stomping ground of Roland Garros. He was very short on clay-court matches and without any clay-court titles this season as the tournament began.

Novak Djokovic appeared to be regathering momentum. Carlos Alcaraz, a young Spaniard, seemed to be rising like a rocket. Nadal said Sunday that just to be able to play the tournament, he needed painkilling injections before every round that left his foot numb, as if it had fallen asleep.

Novak Djokovic appeared to be regathering momentum. Carlos Alcaraz, a young Spaniard, seemed to be rising like a rocket. Nadal said Sunday that just to be able to play the tournament, he needed painkilling injections before every round that left his foot numb, as if it had fallen asleep.

But there is no wake-up call quite like Parisian red clay for Nadal. And on Sunday, after working his way through the loaded top half of the draw, he was much too much, even at less than his best, for the No. 8 seed Casper Ruud in the French Open men’s final, winning 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in a match that lasted 2 hours and 18 minutes. Image

The victory secured Nadal his 14th men’s singles title at the tournament, extending a French Open record that looks more unbeatable with every passing spring.

The victory secured Nadal his 14th men’s singles title at the tournament, extending a French Open record that looks more unbeatable with every passing spring.

He also extended his lead in the three-way major titles race with Djokovic and Roger Federer. Nadal now has a men’s record 22 Grand Slam singles titles, two more than Djokovic, whom Nadal beat in the quarterfinals here, and Federer, who at age 40 is still recovering from his latest knee surgery.

Sunday’s triumph, with Billie Jean King and King Felipe VI of Spain in attendance, also made Nadal, at age 36, the oldest man to win the French Open, surpassing his Spanish compatriot Andrés Gimeno, who won the title in 1972 at age 34.

Sunday’s triumph, with Billie Jean King and King Felipe VI of Spain in attendance, also made Nadal, at age 36, the oldest man to win the French Open, surpassing his Spanish compatriot Andrés Gimeno, who won the title in 1972 at age 34.

“I for sure never believed I would be here at 36 being competitive again, playing in the most important court of my career one more time in the final,” Nadal said. “It means a lot to me, means everything. It just means a lot of energy to try to keep going.”

“I for sure never believed I would be here at 36 being competitive again, playing in the most important court of my career one more time in the final,” Nadal said. “It means a lot to me, means everything. It just means a lot of energy to try to keep going.”

Nadal’s tone of late has been valedictory: He has repeatedly referred to the possibility that he could be playing his final French Open. But after slamming the door on Ruud on Sunday and then hugging him at the net, Nadal made it clear that this was not going to be the tennis equivalent of a walk-off grand slam.

“I don’t know what can happen in the future but I’m going to keep fighting to try to keep going,” he said as the sellout crowd of 15,000, clearly well aware of the speculation, roared its approval. But there are no guarantees, as Nadal later made clear at a news conference as he explained that he did not intend to continue playing tournaments with regular painkilling injections or with a numb foot.

“Everybody knows how much this tournament means to me,” he said. “That was the only way to give myself a chance here, no? So I did it. And I can’t be happier and I can’t thank enough my doctor for all the things he did during all my tennis career, helping me in every tough moment. But it’s obvious that I can’t keep competing with the foot asleep.”

In search of a longer-term solution, Nadal said he would undergo a procedure later this week known as radio frequency ablation, in which radio waves will be sent through a hollow needle inserted into the nerves in his left foot that are causing his constant pain. If the procedure works, which is far from certain, the heat from the radio waves could prevent the nerves from sending pain signals to Nadal’s brain.

“If that works, I’m going to keep going; If that does not work, then it’s going to be another story,” said Nadal, who ruled out taking more painkilling injections to play Wimbledon, which begins in three weeks.

“If that works, I’m going to keep going; If that does not work, then it’s going to be another story,” said Nadal, who ruled out taking more painkilling injections to play Wimbledon, which begins in three weeks.

“If that works, I’m going to keep going; If that does not work, then it’s going to be another story,” said Nadal, who ruled out taking more painkilling injections to play Wimbledon, which begins in three weeks.

“If that works, I’m going to keep going; If that does not work, then it’s going to be another story,” said Nadal, who ruled out taking more painkilling injections to play Wimbledon, which begins in three weeks.

Nadal said if the treatment was ineffective, he would have to ask himself hard questions about his future in the game and whether he wanted to risk foot surgery, which he has been told could impact his mobility “to be competitive again” and could “take a long time” to recover from.

“So let’s do step by step, as I did all my tennis career,” he said of the decision-making process, declining to rule out playing at Wimbledon.

“So let’s do step by step, as I did all my tennis career,” he said of the decision-making process, declining to rule out playing at Wimbledon.