Analysis: Whatever Nadal’s future holds, his legacy’s secure

Jun 5, 2022, 1:06 PM | Updated: Jun 6, 2022, 1:07 am
Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates with the cup after defeating Norway's Casper Ruud in their final ma...

Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates with the cup after defeating Norway's Casper Ruud in their final match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium Sunday, June 5, 2022 in Paris. Nadal won 6-3, 6-3, 6-0. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

(AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

PARIS (AP) — Rafael Nadal’s status for Wimbledon is in doubt because of a chronic problem with his left foot — as is his future in tennis. What’s secure, no matter what happens now, is his legacy.

Nadal got through the French Open, he explained after a dominating 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 victory over Casper Ruud in Sunday’s final earned a 14th championship at Roland Garros and 22nd Grand Slam title overall, thanks to the help of a series of numbing injections in his foot.

That, he says, was a one-time deal.

“I don’t want to put myself in that position again,” Nadal said after becoming, at age 36, the oldest champion in the history of a clay-court tournament that was first held in 1925. “Can happen once. But no, it’s not a philosophy of life that I want to follow.”

And he allowed a little insight into what does make him tick.

It’s not, he said, as he’s said before, an all-consuming desire to finish with more major trophies than the other members of the so-called Big Three of men’s tennis, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. (Nadal currently stands two ahead of his rivals, who both are at 20.)

“It’s not about being the best of the history. It’s not about the records. It’s about: I like what I do. I like to play tennis. And I like the competition,” Nadal said.

“What drives me to keep going is the passion for the game, to live moments that stay inside me forever,” he added, “and play in front of the best crowds in the world and the best stadiums.”

So while he wants to be able to keep going, and would appreciate the chance to play at the All England Club, where the grass-court Slam he has won twice begins three weeks from Monday, he’ll only do so if his body permits.

Nadal, who brought a doctor with him to Paris, is going to spend the next week trying new treatments, hoping to find a way to ease the pain in his foot.

If that doesn’t work, he will need to contemplate having surgery.

“Of course, my tennis career has been a priority during all of my life, but never has been a priority over my happiness (in) life. So things are going to keep going that way,” he said. “If I am still able to be happy playing tennis with the things that I have, I’m going to keep going. If I am not able, I’m going to do other stuff.”

Either way, Nadal’s place in the history of tennis — and, indeed, the history of sports — is solidified.

Because of all of the way he has lorded over the French Open and red clay, yes. And, sure, because of the career Grand Slam he owns and, for now at least, the lead in the men’s major trophy count. Don’t forget the Olympic medals and the time spent at No. 1 in the rankings, either.

But it’s not just all of the numbers. There’s also this: Nadal never seems to take a point off, never seems to let an on-court situation daunt him, never gives in or gives up.

“He stepped up, and he showed that when he needs to, he plays great,” said Ruud, who appeared to be every bit as overwhelmed by the situation and setting as by his opponent.

“He’s a player I have watched on TV for the last 16, 17 years. So to be there myself and face him, it’s a bit of a challenge, as well, but a very enjoyable one,” Ruud said after his debut in a Grand Slam final at age 23. “Yeah, of course, I wish I could make the match closer and all these things, 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?'”

Whatever might come next for Nadal, he needs to figure out what’s best for him, his foot, his happiness.

If he decides there’s no fix for the pain that wouldn’t come at too great a cost, he’ll move on. His imprint on the sport will remain.

___

Howard Fendrich has been the AP’s tennis writer since 2002. Write to him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

___

More AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Bump & Stacy Show

AP

A shot by Las Vegas Aces forward Dearica Hamby (5) is rejected by Washington Mystics forward Elena ...
Associated Press

Mystics knock off Aces in overtime 87-86

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Alysha Clark scored 20 points, Elena Delle Donne added 19 and Natasha Cloud sank three free throws in the final 11.7 seconds of overtime to help the Washington Mystics hold on for an 87-86 victory over the Las Vegas Aces on Saturday night. Clark hit four 3-pointers for Washington (12-9), adding […]
22 hours ago
Philadelphia Phillies' Bryce Harper reacts after being hit by a pitch from San Diego Padres' Blake ...
Associated Press

Phillies’ Harper has broken thumb after being hit by pitch

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper has a broken left thumb after being hit by a 97-mph fastball from Blake Snell in the fourth inning Saturday night against the San Diego Padres. The team announced the reigning NL MVP will be out indefinitely. He will undergo further evaluation in the next few […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Ogwumike scores 24 to lead Sparks past Storm 85-77

SEATTLE (AP) — Nneka Ogwumike scored 24 points to lead four players in double figures and the Los Angeles Sparks clamped down in the fourth quarter to beat the Seattle Storm 85-77 on Saturday night. Ogwumike hit 12 of 18 shots from the floor for Los Angeles (7-10). Katie Lou Samuelson added 17 points for […]
22 hours ago
Mississippi's Tim Elko (25) celebrates as he runs toward home, as he was driven in by Kevin Graham ...
Associated Press

Pitching, power lift Ole Miss over OU in CWS finals opener

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Jack Dougherty knew for 24 hours he would get the ball for Mississippi in Game 1 of the College World Series finals Saturday night, and he didn’t want to jinx himself. “I tried not to think about it too much,” he said. “I wanted to go out there and be myself. […]
22 hours ago
Atlanta Braves' Marcell Ozuna through on a two-run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during ...
Associated Press

Ozuna’s 2-run homer in 8th powers Braves past Dodgers 5-3

ATLANTA (AP) — Marcell Ozuna says he’s beginning to see evidence of his work to regain his timing at the plate after missing most of last season. The Braves outfielder backed up that claim with his biggest hit of the season. Ozuna hit a tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning and Atlanta recovered after blowing […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Phoenix tops Dallas 83-72 in first game without Charles

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Skylar Diggins-Smith scored 26 points, Diana Taurasi added 18 and Phoenix beat the Dallas Wings 83-72 on Saturday in the Mercury’s first game without Tina Charles. The Mercury announced earlier Saturday that they have parted ways with former MVP Tina Charles after just 18 games. “After discussions with Tina and her […]
22 hours ago
Analysis: Whatever Nadal’s future holds, his legacy’s secure