Prize and praise

Nadal basks in latest French conquest as accolades pour in
Prize and praise
Rafael Nadal

PARIS: Rafael Nadal would probably not have played any Grand Slam other than the French Open with the chronic foot injury that needed numbing injections in Paris, the 14-time Roland Garros champion said on Monday.

The Spaniard’s record-extending triumph on clay earned him an all-time best 22nd men’s singles major with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 crushing of Norway’s Casper Ruud. The victory put him two titles clear of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, who each have 20 trophies. It was the “most unexpected” of his French Open titles, Nadal said on Monday after limping into the scintillating salon of a central Paris hotel.

Asked if he would have played any other Grand Slam with the injury that forced him to have injections to numb his foot, Nadal said: “Probably not”. “We have been through a lot of emotions. Probably, the most unexpected, surprising [title]. All the things I had to do to play the event make the title one of the most special,” the 36-year-old said.

Nadal said that because of the injury, which also meant he arrived in Paris with no title on the European clay, he was not confident that he would be able to fight for the Musketeers’ Cup. “Of course when you arrive with a poor preparation like I did, every day is a challenge; you need to increase your level of tennis every single day,” he explained.

Rafael Nadal
Dhanush tweets in praise of French Open tennis champion Nadal

Nadal has traditionally started his French Open campaigns with at least one clay-court title under his belt, but got to the French capital this year empty-handed. “[Winning those titles] gives you an extra security if you want to reach at least the level [that] you need to fight for the final rounds,” the Spaniard said.

“This time, before the tournament started, I did not know if I would be able to fight for the second week. So, I just took one [round] at a time.” While he still does not know what his schedule will look like in the coming weeks, Nadal agreed to cast his mind forward to two years from now, when Roland Garros will host the Olympics after the French Open.

Nadal has won both titles but should he have to choose between the two tournaments in 2024, the French Open would have his preference. “Roland Garros is part of the history of my career, it is the most important place in my career. Of course, the Olympics is the most important event in the world of sports,” he said. “So it is difficult to choose but possibly Roland Garros is a little more special for me.”

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