French Open finalist Rafael Nadal plans to play through foot injury pain against Casper Ruud

There is, according to those who have seen it, a bone protruding upwards on the crest of Rafael Nadal’s left foot, which is the source of his constant discomfort.

Hence the dark warnings from the 36-year-old Spaniard, as he battles something called Mueller-Weiss Syndrome, that he does not know how much longer he has in the game.

Whatever treatment or painkilling procedures Nadal is having has been sufficient to get him to today’s championship final of the French Open.

Rafael Nadal has yet to decide whether to play at Wimbleton in June according to reports

Casper Ruud is in the final having never been past the fourth round at any major until now

His approach has been to give it everything at Roland Garros, which culminates in him meeting Casper Ruud, an unexpected opponent, the first Norwegian man ever to make a Grand Slam final.

After that, Nadal will see what state he is in. According to those close to him, there is still no decision made on whether or not he will play Wimbleton.

The encouraging aspect for Nadal is that his knees, which sometimes react badly to the bending required on grass, are in good shape and should not prove any obstacle to his participation.

The 36-year-old will face Norwegian Casper Ruud in the final at Roland Garros on Sunday

The foot may be a different matter for the Spaniard, as he tries to eke out what he can from his increasingly uncooperative body.

It would hardly be a surprise if he did not play at SW19, which would be another blow to the event already shorn of some big names.

Rafa’s Roland Garros numbers 

19 – The Spaniard won his first French Open title in 2005 at the age of 19]

7 – He has lost just seven sets in French Open finals 

81 – Nadal holds both the record for the most consecutive French Open wins (39) between 2010 and 2014 and the longest winning streak on clay – an astonishing 81 matches (2005-2007)

2 – Only two players have beaten Nadal in Paris (Robin Soderling in 2010 and Novak Djokovic in 2005 and 2021)

With Alex Zverev, the world No3, reporting overnight that he has suffered ligament damage after his fall during his Paris semi-final with Nadal, there is a real prospect that three of the top five men will not be at the All England Club when the tournament begins on June 27. 

Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, world ranked No2, is another non-starter.

It is going to be an interesting seeding list at Wimbleton, with Britain’s Cam Norrie likely to be bumped up into the top eight.

Expected to be seeded fourth is Ruud, the 23-year-old from Oslo who is the latest product from a country which punches hugely above its weight in the world of sport.

Ruud’s father, Christian, was a tennis player who briefly made the world’s top 40 in the mid-1990s and now coaches his more talented offspring.

Part of Ruud’s development as a teenager was to spend time at Nadal’s academy in Mallorca, and he is still a regular visitor for training weeks.

Nadal was initially his hero, but has now turned into a friend, golfing partner and practice partner. Irrespective of all that, it would be a massive upset if Ruud defeated him today.

‘We have played some practice sets and I don’t know but he pretty much has always beaten me,’ said Ruud.

‘There’s been some close sets but it always goes in his favour.

‘But it’s because we are playing in the academy and I want to be nice to him, be a good guest.’

Such is the extraordinary longevity of Nadal that it is hardly unusual for him to be playing someone who idolised him from an early age.

The Spaniard consoled semi-final opponent Alexander Zverev as he withdrew through injury

Ruud admitted that he had been glued to all 13 finals that the Spaniard has played at Roland Garros, none of which have ever gone against him.

‘I think I could probably tell you all the finals and who he has played and who he has beaten, because I watched them all on TV,’ the Norwegian said.

Nadal takes a close interest in the students that come to Manacor, few of whom will ever make it to the level of his opponent today.

‘I think in the academy we were able to help him a little bit, but more than anything I like to see good people achieving their dreams. I’m happy for Casper and his mum and dad, they are a very nice family,’ Nadal said.

It is difficult to see any scenario in which Ruud, who has not previously been beyond the fourth round at a Grand Slam, is going to stop yet another Nadal victory.

Nadal will win a 14th French Open championship of his career with a victory on Sunday

Even if the roof is closed for today’s forecasted downpours, which might reduce the effect of Nadal’s heavy spin, his experience at these occasions is liable to prove overwhelming.

By the end of this afternoon, Nadal is likely to be two major titles ahead of Novak Djokovic, after the Serb’s curiously undulating performance when they met in the quarter-final.

With Djokovic likely to win Wimbleton, that majors gap may soon close again. It remains open to question how many more of the biggest tournaments Nadal will be able to contest again.

Originally posted 2022-06-05 03:44:08.