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Brain Game: Where Nadal Drew A Line In The Parisian Clay Against Ruud

  • Posted: Jun 05, 2022

Brain Game: Where Nadal Drew A Line In The Parisian Clay Against Ruud

Brain Game analyses where Nadal excelled in the championship clash

What happened when Rafael Nadal hit three — and only three — balls in the court against Casper Ruud?

Calculated clay-court carnage.

Nadal defeated Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in the Roland Garros final on Sunday on the back of dominating points in which he hit exactly three balls in the court when serving and receiving. In a one-sided final that saw the Spaniard win the final 11 games of the match, Nadal and Ruud surprisingly played very evenly in the 0-4 shot rally length, with Nadal winning 28 points and Ruud 27.

And then the fifth shot of the rally arrived, and it acted like a proverbial line in the Parisian clay.

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Five-Shot Rallies (Nadal Serving)
Rally length in tennis is dictated by the ball landing in the court, not hitting the strings, which means the server can only win odd-numbered rallies, and the returner can only win even-numbered rallies. A five-shot rally is an ideal rally length for Nadal’s chess-like strategy, giving him two more strategic moves after the serve to either construct a winner or force an error. This is where his dominance in the final blossomed in all its glory.

Points Won In Five-Shot Rallies
Nadal = 11 points won (3 winners/8 errors extracted from Ruud)
Ruud = 3 points won (1 winner/2 errors extracted from Nadal)

Ruud won four-shot rallies 9-6, but things dramatically changed when one more shot was hit in the court. Nadal forged an impressive 11-3 advantage in five-shot rallies. Getting to hit two more shots after the serve is a sweet spot for Nadal to initially gain a positional advantage and then extract errors from his scrambling opponent.

Six-Shot Rallies (Nadal Receiving)
The returner is typically on defence to start the point in six-shot rallies, weathering the storm of an aggressive serve and then playing defence with a Return +1 groundstroke. Getting to neutral on the third shot is typically considered a minor victory for the returner. Those rules simply didn’t apply to Nadal in the final.

Points Won In Six-Shot Rallies
Nadal = 13 points (10 winners / 3 errors extracted from Ruud)
Ruud = 3 points (0 winners / 3 errors extracted from Nadal)

Nadal forged an eight-point advantage in five-shot rallies (11-3) and was even more dominant in six-shot rallies, creating a 10-point advantage (13-3). Of all the rally lengths played in the final, Nadal hit the most winners (10) in six-shot rallies. You can picture in your mind the Spaniard rolling back a high return from deep in the court, then moving quickly to the baseline to attack the next shot to Ruud’s backhand and then hitting a run-around forehand winner through the vacant deuce court, out of reach of Ruud’s running forehand.

Nadal forged a dominant 24-6 point advantage when you combine five and six-shot rallies. It is important to note that in both five and six-shot rallies, Nadal hits exactly three shots in the court.

What’s fascinating is that seven and eight-shot rallies had far less bearing on the outcome. Ruud won seven-shot rallies 5-4, and Nadal won eight shot rallies 6-3. There were a sizable 30 points played in five and six-shot rallies and just 18 points played in seven and eight-shot rallies.

Nadal’s Rally Advantage
0-4 Shot Rallies = 1-point advantage (28-27)
5-6 Shot Rallies = 18-point advantage (24-6)
7-8 Shot Rallies = 2-point advantage (10-8)

Hitting three balls in the court, whether serving or receiving, was the sweet spot of Nadal’s lopsided victory. He did well to survive the initial onslaught of the 0-4 rally length and then went straight to work hitting 13 winners and extracting 11 errors from his third shot of the rally.

Three shots in the court is an ideal strategic blend of defending first, outmaneuvering second, and dropping the hammer on the third shot. The Parisian mid-length master plan was hidden in plain sight.

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From Idol To Rival: Ruud Says Nadal Can 'Eat You Alive'

  • Posted: Jun 05, 2022

From Idol To Rival: Ruud Says Nadal Can ‘Eat You Alive’

Roland Garros finalist set to rise to No. 6 in Pepperstone ATP Rankings

Years ago, a young Casper Ruud sat in the stands on Court Philippe Chatrier and watched Rafael Nadal sweep to the title at Roland Garros. On Sunday afternoon, the 23-year-old Ruud had a different view as the Spaniard stormed to a 14th crown at the clay-court Grand Slam in Paris.

“I enjoyed both days, but of course it was more fun to be there myself and play,” said Ruud in his post-match press conference after falling to a 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 defeat against Nadal in his maiden major final. “There are certain moments I think for everyone’s career that you’ll remember more than others, so this one will be high up on my list, biggest match I ever played.

“He’s a player I have watched on TV for the past 16, 17 years. To be there myself and face him, it’s a bit of a challenge, but a very enjoyable one… Of course I wish I could make the match closer, but at the end of the day I can hopefully one day tell my grandkids that I played Rafa on Chatrier in the final, and they will probably say, ‘Wow, did you?’ I will say Yes. I’m probably going to enjoy this moment for a long time.”

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Two moments in particular stand out for Ruud from his first tour-level meeting with Nadal. “Match points are always the most memorable, and he finished the match in style with a winner down the line,” said the Norwegian. “Seeing the ball drop on the line, that’s what I can remember the most for now.

“And of course, stepping onto the court. Something that’s a bit funny when he plays, when the announcer does the intro and he says all the times he [Nadal] has won the tournament, it never stops, it seems like. That takes like half a minute just to say all the years. I think that is also something I will remember.”

Ruud admitted that taking on Nadal on a court where the Spaniard has now won 14 from 14 finals was the toughest challenge he has faced in tennis.

“I said before the match that I guess it is,” he said. “But now I think I know it is. At least what I have faced. It’s really challenging and really tough. But I already knew it in a way.”

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Nadal’s prowess was clearly demonstrated in his response to Ruud breaking his serve early in the second set. The Spaniard answered by reeling off 11 straight games to charge to the title.

“I got a little bit of a cheap break of serve in the second set and was up 3-1, and of course wanted to get the match going and maybe try to win the set,” said Ruud. “But then he stepped up and he showed that when he needs to, he plays great.

“It was tough for me to really know where I should play the ball because from both sides, he [is] strong. On the forehand he plays with a little bit of spin and kind of feels like you’re playing a right-handed forehand.

“I didn’t know exactly where to play there in the end, and he made me run around the court too much. When you are playing defensive against Rafa on clay, he will eat you alive.”

The Norwegian did have some prior experience dealing with the Nadal game coming into the pair’s maiden tour-level meeting. Ruud has trained at Nadal’s academy in Mallorca since September 2018, but he admitted that previous practice sessions with the Spaniard couldn’t replicate taking him on in a major final.

“It is tough to describe,” said Ruud. “He plays the same style in practice and matches… But the circumstances were a bit different today. It was the first time I have experienced this situation, playing a Grand Slam final. I don’t think it really got to me until I stepped on court today and saw the full stadium and felt the atmosphere in the crowd.

“It was a bit tough to [make] myself comfortable in the situation in the beginning, but as the match went on, I tended to feel a little bit better, and I could calm down and breathe out a little bit more. But it was challenging because you are playing him, the most-winning Slam player ever, and on this court in the final, it’s not too easy.

“But it was worth a shot, and a good experience, for sure.”

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The final against Nadal was not the first new experience for Ruud this fortnight in Paris. He had never previously been past the fourth round at a Grand Slam, and the 23-year-old believes there is plenty to take away from his showing in the French capital as he seeks greater consistency at major tournaments.

“I didn’t play my greatest tennis every single point of the tournament, but I was able to win the most important ones and realise that the best-of-five sets matches can be very long, can be sort of a marathon,” said Ruud.

“That’s something that I think I will learn from, take with me from this experience. Realising also that I have been able to keep my body well, not too many pains or injuries these two weeks and playing quite long matches. So that’s also a good sign for me.”

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Nadal: 'Having This Trophy Means Everything'

  • Posted: Jun 05, 2022

Nadal: ‘Having This Trophy Means Everything’

Spaniard defeated Ruud to clinch record-extending 22nd Grand Slam crown

Rafael Nadal made history once again at Roland Garros Sunday, soaring to his 14th title in the French capital and record-extending 22nd Grand Slam trophy overall.

Following his win over Casper Ruud on Court Philippe Chatrier, the Spaniard revealed his triumph in Paris was one of the most emotional and important victories of his career.

“For me having this trophy next to me again means everything. [It] has been [an] emotional victory, without a doubt. Unexpected in some ways. [I am] very happy,” Nadal said in his post-match press conference. “[It] has been a great two weeks. I played from the beginning, improving every day. Finishing [by] playing a good final. [I am] super happy and can’t thank everybody enough for the support since the first day that I arrived here. [It is] very emotional.”

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The 36-year-old, who now holds a 112-3 record at the clay-court major, struggled with a chronic foot injury in his defeat to Denis Shapovalov in Rome a little more than three weeks ago.

However, Nadal was not to be denied in Paris, moving past Top 10 stars Felix Auger-Aliassime, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev en route to a first ATP Head2Head meeting with Casper Ruud. The 14-time champion admitted that it is an injury that is causing him problems, though.

“I didn’t want to talk about the foot during the tournament. I said I’m going to speak after the tournament, and now I can speak because I wanted to focus on my tennis and respect my rivals… I was able to play during these two weeks with extreme conditions,” Nadal said. “I have been playing with injections on the nerves to sleep the foot, and that’s why I was able to play during these two weeks.

“Because I have no feelings on my foot, because my doctor was able to put anesthetic injections on the nerves. That takes out the feeling on my foot. But at the same time, it’s a big risk in terms of less feelings, a little bit bigger risk of turning your ankle… So of course Roland Garros is Roland Garros. Everybody knows how much it means to me this tournament, so I wanted to keep trying and to give myself a chance here.”

Nadal admitted while the situation is unclear he is aiming to find a solution so he can compete at Wimbledon later in June.

“I don’t know how to say in English exactly the treatment, but [I am] going to have a radio frequency injection on the nerve and try to burn a little bit the nerve and create the impact that I have now on the nerve for a long period of time,” Nadal said. “That’s what we are going to try. If that works, I [am] going to keep going. If that doesn’t work, then [it is] going [to] be another story.”

The Spaniard, who said that he is determined to continue to play as long as he is comfortable and happy on court, has now extended his lead over Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the Grand Slam titles race. The Serbian and Swiss are tied on 20 major titles, while Nadal has 22 Slam crowns.

Yet the former World No. 1 said that it is not the records that he is motivated by, but the love he has for the sport, which he started playing professionally in 2004.

“It’s not about being the best [in] history. It’s not about the records. It’s about what I do. I like to play tennis. And I like the competition,” Nadal said. “As I said a couple of times in the past, and is not a thing that I repeat, is not the thing that I don’t feel for me, we achieved our dreams. Me, Roger, Novak, we achieved things that probably we never expected.

“For me, what drives me to keep going is not about the competition to try to be the best or to win more Grand Slams than the others. What drives me to keep going is the passion for the game, live moments that stay inside me forever, and play in front of the best crowds in the world and the best stadiums.”

In contrast to the Spaniard, who was competing in his 14th final in Paris, Ruud was playing in his first Grand Slam championship match. The champion was full of praise for his opponent, who has trained at Nadal’s academy in Mallorca since September 2018.

“Casper is a great player. He’s going to be the fourth in the [Pepperstone ATP] Race [To Turin] now. Very high position in the ranking, improving every year because in the past he had been only a great player on clay,” Nadal said. “Now he’s winning titles and fighting for the most important events on the other surfaces too.

“That’s, for me, that’s the most important thing in the sport. The value of the daily work, he has it. He’s improving all the time, and even if today probably was a tough day for him, I’m sure that he’s very proud and his team is very proud of him… I would love to see him with a trophy in the future.”

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Nadal Extends Lead Over Ruud In Roland Garros Final

  • Posted: Jun 05, 2022

Nadal Extends Lead Over Ruud In Roland Garros Final

Nadal aiming for record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title, Ruud going for first

Rafael Nadal has moved to within one set of capturing a historic 14th title at Roland Garros and a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam trophy Sunday, winning the second set to lead Casper Ruud 6-3, 6-3 in the final in Paris.

In front of a raucous crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier, the 36-year-old produced an intense and aggressive first-set performance, hitting his forehand with heavy topspin to outmanoeuvre the Norwegian and move ahead.

After making a slow start to the second set, the Spaniard rallied from 1-3 by returning to basics. He hung in points, won the longer exchanges and produced an array of stunning passing shots off both wings to take further control after one hour and 42 minutes.

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Nadal is trying to become the oldest Roland Garros men’s singles champion in history, surpassing countryman Andres Gimeno, who set the record 50 years ago. If Nadal can improve to 112-3 at the clay-court major and capture his 22nd Grand Slam crown, the Spaniard will move further clear of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the Grand Slam race, with the Serbian and Swiss tied on 20 major titles.

Nadal, who will rise to No. 4 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday regardless of the result, has showcased his fighting qualities en route to the final, spending 11 hours and 46 minutes on court in his three previous matches. The fifth seed moved past Top 10 stars Felix Auger-Aliassime, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev to set a first ATP Head2Head meeting with World No. 8 Ruud.

If the Spaniard defeats the Norwegian, he will become just the third player to earn four Top 10 wins at a Grand Slam event since the inception of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in 1973. Mats Wilander at Roland Garros in 1982 and Federer at the Australian Open in 2017 also achieved the feat.

Nadal will draw level with the Carlos Alcaraz on a Tour-leading four titles in 2022 if he improves to 14-0 in Roland Garros finals, having lifted the Australian Open, the Melbourne Summer Set and the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC this year. The Spaniard has never won the Australian Open and Roland Garros titles in the same season.

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Ruud, who has trained at Nadal’s academy in Mallorca since September 2018, is playing in his maiden Grand Slam championship match after he overcame Croatian Marin Cilic to improve to 30-9 on the season.

The 23-year-old had never been beyond the fourth round at a major prior to his run in Paris and is the first Norwegian man to reach the championship match at a Grand Slam. Before Ruud, the last Scandinavian male to advance to the final at a major was Swede Robin Soderling at Roland Garros in 2010.

The eight-time tour-level champion, who has earned a Tour-leading 66 match wins on clay since 2020, will rise to a career-high No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday even with defeat.

Set One

In lively conditions, Nadal immediately flew out of the blocks, forcing Ruud deep behind the baseline with his heavy forehand, which consistently rose above the Norwegian’s shoulders. After breaking for a 2-0 lead, the Spaniard suffered a slight dip in his second service game, double faulting twice, to give Ruud the opportunity to move onto the scoreboard, which he took. However, Nadal responded quickly by breaking again and continuing to fire his forehand with precision and power, hitting 11 winners to once again take the lead in a Roland Garros final.

Set Two

Ruud turned the tables at the start of the second set, though, raising his level and intensity to force Nadal into errors, with the Norwegian striking his watertight groundstrokes through the court. However, from 1-3 behind, Nadal quickly rediscovered his best level. He cut down on errors and demonstrated great footwork to start to dictate on his forehand once again.

The Norwegian tried to take the match to Nadal, but the fifth seed started to have all the answers. The 36-year-old scrambled around the baseline to force Ruud into hitting another shot, before he pushed the World No. 8 deep into the backhand corner with his own power, rolling off five games in a row to move to within one set of victory.

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Iga Swiatek Finds Calm In Nadal's Perspective

  • Posted: Jun 05, 2022

Iga Swiatek Finds Calm In Nadal’s Perspective

Nadal to play for 14th Roland Garros title Sunday

Two-time women’s Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek is blazing her own path at the top of professional tennis but says that lessons drawn from her idol Rafael Nadal have helped keep her dizzying success in perspective.

After claiming her 35th consecutive match win and sixth consecutive title Saturday against Coco Gauff in Paris, the Pole said that watching how Nadal has faced success and failure had helped to shape her own approach to the highs and lows of life on tour.

“I think the best thing I can learn from him is how he’s cool about what’s going on around him,” Swiatek said. “Because sometimes in our heads, I think many players are overanalysing everything. We treat those finals… [that] if we are gonna lose suddenly, our life is bad.

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“I feel like all these great champions, they kind of accept that they may lose. I remember even last year when Rafa lost in semi-finals, I met him coincidentally next day, at breakfast in the hotel, and I said to him that I was crying basically the whole evening because he lost.

“He was, like, ‘Oh, it’s just a tennis match. You win, you lose. It’s normal’. Not everybody can do that and just treat those big moments as another match.”

Nadal, who on Sunday will chase record-extending 14th Roland Garros and 22nd Grand Slam titles against Casper Ruud, has been full of praise for Swiatek.

“When somebody like her is winning the tournaments and is winning with these results, I mean, it’s something special, no?” Nadal said in his pre-tournament presser at Roland Garros.

“It was a big surprise probably the first time, that couple of years ago when she won here. But the way that she’s playing this year looks unstoppable… I’m just happy for her. She’s very spontaneous and natural girl. Is good to have girls like this, good people like her having success.”


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