Rafael Nadal, the twilight of a king

Rafael Nadal, during his semi-final against the German Alexander Zverev, Friday June 3 on the central court of Roland-Garros with the unfolded roof.

Some saw in it an ultimate sign of Providence. He would obviously have preferred to win this 14e fair final. Friday, June 3, the day of his 36e birthday, Rafael Nadal went for a 111e victory at Roland-Garros, taking advantage of the abandonment of Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals (7-6, 6-6). As we headed for a second decisive game after 3:12 of a duel as hung as illegible, the German’s right ankle twisted violently. In tears, the world number 3 left the Philippe-Chatrier court in a wheelchair. In a gesture that honored him, he came back a few minutes later on crutches to shake hands with the referee, to the Central’s ovation.

Read also: Rafael Nadal will play his 14th final at Roland-Garros after the abandonment of Alexander Zverev

Sunday, facing the Norwegian Casper Ruud as a surprise guest, the Spaniard will try to raise his 22e Grand Slam trophy, his 14e on Parisian clay, seventeen years after the first. Since 2005, he has only missed the opportunity to blow out his candles there three times. Rafael Nadal in the tournament final “the most important of his career” ? A routine. Or almost. Three weeks ago, the castellan of the Porte d’Auteuil feared that he would not be able to defend his citadel. On May 12, the Spaniard limps like a cacochymic old man during his round of 16 in Rome against the Canadian Denis Shapovalov, lost in three sets (1-6, 7-5, 6-2).

His left foot, bruised by Müller-Weiss syndrome, necrosis of the navicular bone, seems to indicate the way to retirement. The player has been dragging this incurable disease since 2004. That year, he had prevented him from treading the crushed brick in Paris for the first time. As resilient as he is, his body has limits that it has already largely exceeded.

Survival instinct

At Foro Italico, Nadal, staring blankly, has these alarming words: “I play to be happy, but the pain takes away your happiness, not just to play tennis but also to live. There are too many days when I have to live with too much pain. There will come a day when my head will tell me basta. » Three weeks later, he is reborn. As if the Parisian soil healed him, regenerated him.

Also read the interview: Article reserved for our subscribers Rafael Nadal: “I play with pain”

After his demonstration against Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals on Tuesday (6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6), during a May evening that ended in the early hours of June, Rafael Nadal suddenly resumed his favorite costume. The Serb, who had knocked him down here in the semi-finals last year, when his foot pain was waking up, received an entry uppercut. Way to say: “No one beats Nadal twice in a row on the Philippe-Chatrier court. »

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