Nadal against his student at the 14th Roland Garros

Casper Ruud and Rafael Nadal have never met in a match.

Nadal against his student at the 14th Roland Garros

Casper Ruud and Rafael Nadal have never met in a match. They don't necessarily know each other, but that doesn't make them any less friends. They actually know each other well because Nadal's Academy, Manacor, has been home to the Norwegian for many years. He has had the opportunity to train with the 21-major champion on numerous occasions, more than any other person in history.

In August 2018, Ruud, who was then barely among the 150 players in the world, decided that he would join Nadal's Balearic Islands project and begin training at his school. At 19 years old, Ruud was in the semifinals of the ATP 500 in Rio de Janeiro. He is also one of the most promising players his country has ever seen, which is a testament to his talent.

The man from Oslo rose 140 places in the world ranking over these nearly four years to become the Norwegian with highest ranking in history. He also surpasses his father Christian Ruud (39 in 1995). He won eight titles between February 2020 to May 2022, six on clay, two on cement. In addition, he reached his first Masters 1000 final against Carlos Alcaraz in Miami, and his first final against Nadal in a Grand Slam.

His best record in majors was the round 16 in Australia. This year's achievement marks the remarkable progression of the Norwegian, who started the clay tour (his best surface) in a very poor manner. He won four matches between Monte Carlo and Madrid, but Djokovic stopped him in Rome. Then he took flight and reached the semifinals in Rome. He now faces the greatest test of his career, the most important game.

The greatest challenge in sport is playing against Nadal at the Roland Garros final. It seems impossible, considering he has won each of the 13 finals. "I am aware I am not the favourite, but I must believe that I can win," said the Norwegian who admitted that he knew Nadal from his training at the academy as well as from watching him on TV.

"We played some training sets, and he has always beat me. Ruud joked that he and Ruud played at his academy. Ruud also mentioned that he enjoyed the 13 finals Nadal won at the Philippe chatrier. I could name each one of them. It was amazing to be there after watching him play against Federer, Djokovic and Thiem. He said, "It's something that I'll always remember in the course of my career."

Ruud, who is Nadal's third-lowest ranking rival in Roland Garros finals, will be on par with Dominic Thiem (2018), who was also eighth around the world, as well Mariano Puerta (37th) in 2005.

The Spaniard hopes to win a 14th Roland Garros title, which would increase his dominance in Paris. It would also place him with the twenty second Grand Slam, two ahead of Novak Djokovic (who has not won since Wimbledon 2021) and Roger Federer (who has his last wound in Australia 2018).

Being in the final is an incredible achievement. It is an honor to be back in the final, said the Spaniard. He, however, will play this Sunday with the cloud of a battered foot. I prefer to lose the final, and have a better foot that allows me be happier in my daily life. "Winning is beautiful and brings you joy, but life is what matters most," said Nadal, who is currently number four in the world. He hopes to win and stay close to third.