Rafael Nadal winning the French Open is still the most inevitable outcome in sports

Don't hate him because you're not him.

Don’t hate him because you’re not him.
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Rafael Nadal’s dominance on clay is to be expected. When he entered Roland Garros, his path to the title was Jordanesque, as Gretzky, Ruthian, or any other GOAT athlete of the last century thinks.

17 years have passed since Nadal won his first Grand Slam at Roland Garros as a teenager. The once bouncy hair of the “clay king” may have thinned out, but the French Open crown is still present. Nadal overcame eighth seed Casper Ruud to claim his 14th victory in the French Open final at dawn on Sunday. His victory was never in doubt in his 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 stomping against Ruud. It is merely a scripted routine. The 36-year-old Spaniard has won every French Open Final he has played in four sets or less and won 112 of 115 games at Roland Garros. He now has eight more French Open titles than Björn Borg, whose six French championship titles were the previous red clay standard before Nadal overtook him in 2012.

However, Nadal’s clay-court dominance has gone further than Borg could have imagined and is beginning to expand into hard courts as well. Novak Djokovic’s stubborn vaccine resistance and Federer’s aging have helped Nadal monopolize the Grand Slams. In terms of dominance, Djokovic in Australia and Federer at Wimbledon are the closest opponents to Nadal’s reign at the French Open. Djokovic’s nine titles are the second-most won by a single player at a Grand Slam in the Open Era, and Federer’s eight Wimbledon titles are the third-most.

Djokovic’s absence leaves a chance for Nadal to win his second Australian Open title. Winning the Australian and French Opens in the first half of 2022 has created a significant gap between him, Djokovic and Federer in the men’s Grand Slam title arms race. Nadal’s 22nd Grand Slam gives him two more than his contemporaries as the top-scoring men’s slam champion in the Open Era.

Nadal’s most formidable opponent was expected to be defending champion Novak Djokovic, but Nadal fell to the floor with him in the quarterfinals. Alexander Zverev tore a ligament in his ankle in the semi-final against Nadal and had to withdraw. The 25-year-old German went through a set after starting 7-6 (August 10), 6-6 against Nadal at the time of his ankle injury.

Nadal’s nearly 20-year battle with Müller-Weiss disease has caused chronic left foot pain, which appears to have worsened over the last year. He withdrew from the 2021 US Open to rehabilitate, and his foot repeatedly bothered him throughout the French Open. In his match against France, Nadal himself was left limping after an early group stage loss at the Italian Open a month ago. Nadal hinted at retiring from the French Open due to a pain in his leg, and before the Final, Nadal told the media that he “would like to lose Sunday’s final” in exchange for a new foot.

After the French Open final, Nadal told Eurosport that he played the match with “no sensation” in his left leg due to an injection into a nerve.

Despite his weakened state, Nadal seems confident about competing at Wimbledon. Nadal remains the only male tennis player to win three Grand Slams in a row in a calendar year. He will do so in a field banned from competition by Russia and Belorussia like world No 2 Danii Medvedev and Audrey Rublev.

A potential 23rd Grand Slam would put him on par with Serena Williams. Nadal will be the clear favorite if he returns for a 15th stroll through the French Open. He will also become the second oldest male Grand Slam champion in history.

Nadal is the only star in ATP Tour history. His career income of $500 million is only half that of Roger Federer because clay is considered a side court on the ATP Tour. Nadal is a superstar on hard courts, but he is a supernova on clay. The French Open is Nadal’s realm and it doesn’t look like he will be ousted from that throne anytime soon.

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