4 min read
Rafael Nadal (UTR Rating 16.16) and Casper Ruud (15.79) are going to have their first career meeting on Sunday on one of the greatest stages of the sport: the Roland Garros final. In Friday's semifinal action, Nadal played less than two sets after Alexander Zverev suffered an ankle injury, while Ruud ended Marin Cilic’s run in four sets.
Let's preview the final with Universal Tennis INSIGHTS,
Nadal Heavily Favored to Win
While Nadal has never played against Ruud before, he has been in this situation many times: He has played in 30 major finals and has won all 13 Roland Garros finals he has played. The 36-year-old is seeking his 14th Roland Garros title and 22nd overall major. He’s looking to become the oldest champion in Paris, having just celebrated his birthday on Friday.
"All the sacrifices, and all the things that I need to go through to try to keep playing," Nadal said, “
Ruud Up for the Challenge
Since breaking through in 2020, Ruud established himself as a prince of clay after winning his first five ATP titles on clay. In fact, seven of his eight titles have all come on clay including two in 2022 (Geneva and Buenos Aires).
"For me, I don't know what to say, I just feel a little bit more comfortable on it, moving around, and, in a way, it just kind of suits my game better,” Ruud said. “I like the fight, the hustle, and just everything about the clay. Of course, it's physically tough. You will usually play some long rallies, but I like it.”
The 23-year-old is the first Norwegian to win an ATP title, reach an ATP Masters 1000 final (Miami), and appear in a Grand Slam final.
Ruud's road to the Paris final saw him score wins over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Emil Ruusuvuori, Lorenzo Sonego, Hubert Hurkacz, Holger Rune, and Cilic. The No. 8 seed dropped the first set to the 33-year-old Croatian only to bounce back and dominate the final two sets.
“Casper is one of the candidates
Gearing Up for a Memorable First Meeting
Nadal has been openly struggling with a left foot injury so his battle with Zverev being cut short on Friday will benefit his preparation for the final. At 7-6(8), 6-6, the match was already three hours long. The Spaniard was pushed to five sets by Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round and had to fight past Novak Djokovic after 1 a.m. to reach the semifinals.
Though Nadal and Ruud have never faced each other, Ruud has trained at Nadal’s academy in Mallorca so they have a sense of familiarity.
"He's a perfect example of how you should behave on court: Never give up and never complain. He's been my idol for all my life,” Ruud said. "I guess this is perfect timing and worth the wait to finally play him in a Grand Slam final."
The men's final will take place on Sunday at 3 p.m. local time (9 a.m. EST).
•UTR Ratings and INSIGHTS probabilities as of 8 a.m. EST, June 4, 2022.