The Spaniard dominated Sunday’s final and won 11 consecutive matches in the second and third sets to wrap up a 22nd Grand Slam title – two ahead of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic at the top of the men’s all-time list .
The victory also means the 36-year-old Nadal, who won his first French Open title 17 years ago, becomes the oldest men’s singles champion at Roland Garros.
“For me personally, it’s very difficult to describe the feelings I have,” Nadal said during his on-pitch interview after the match. “It’s something I never thought I’d be here at 36, to be competitive again, to play on the most important court of my career one more final – it means a lot to me.”
Such was the case of master versus apprentice at Roland Garros on Sunday with Ruud, who has trained at Mallorca’s Rafael Nadal Academy since 2018 and looked up to Nadal as he rose through the tennis ranks, appearing in his first Grand Slam final.
But the 23-year-old was outclassed by Nadal the first time the two faced off.
After leading 3-1 going into the second set, Ruud saw the contest elude him and failed to put up a game in the final set.
He then paid tribute to Nadal, saying in his on-pitch interview: “We all know what a champion you are and today I could feel what it’s like to play against you in the final. It’s not not easy and I’m not the first victim – I know there have been many before.”
The win over Ruud confirms the Australian Open title he won in January, the first time in his career Nadal has won the first two Grand Slams of the calendar year.
He got off to a fast start in Sunday’s final and took a 4-1 lead in the opening set after breaking Ruud’s serve twice.
Nadal’s tactic of targeting Ruud’s backhand proved effective, but he faltered early in the second set – first when he wasted break points in the opener and then when he was broken for love in the fourth game.
However, any momentum Ruud could gain was short-lived as his afternoon unfolded.
Nadal, who was hampered by a foot injury during the build-up to the tournament, seemed to move around the court well throughout the game and began to exert his dominance to win the next five games in the second set.
Then in the third set, which only lasted 30 minutes, Ruud was barely spotted.
A hard-hitting backhand from Nadal completed the victory – and a historic 14th title at Roland Garros.
But will it be his last?
“I don’t know what can happen in the future, but I will keep fighting to try and keep going,” Nadal told the crowd on the Philippe-Chatrier court to enthusiastic applause.