Rafael Nadal had to have multiple injections at two nerves in his left foot to relieve pain. This was the only way that he knew of to manage a chronic condition that he acknowledged could affect his future tennis career.
Nadal stated that he wouldn't have persevered in such "extreme" conditions at any other tournament.
Ah, but five simple words uttered after he strung together the last 11 games of a 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 victory over an overwhelmed Casper Ruud in Sunday's intriguing-for-a-handful-of-minutes final at Court Philippe Chatrier explained Nadal's mindset: "Roland Garros is Roland Garros."
Even though Nadal is a French Open champion for 14th times at 36, his desire to "find solutions", one of his most-used phrases, remains the same.
His hair is thinned on the top and he is the oldest tournament champion. He wore a chartreuse Tshirt on Sunday, which had sleeves. This is a far cry from his biceps-bared look nearly twenty years ago. His white capri pants, which ran below his knees in the days before technology was available, were long ago replaced by more standard shorts. Sunday's had a turquoise color.
Here's the thing that hasn't changed in his quest for 22 Grand Slam titles, an additional record. His between-point mannerisms, meticulous attention to water bottles and towels placement, and his meticulous attention to detail have all contributed to another record: The lefty uppercut of a high-bouncing, topspin-slathered forehand still finds and hits the mark more often than it misses, confusing foes. It still hurts to be able to read serves and return them with purpose. That never-concede-a-thing attitude propelling Nadal from side to side, forward and backward, speeding to, and redirecting, balls off an opponent's racket seemingly destined to be unreachable.
Nadal is indefatigable and nothing but the best. He was even able to win consecutive four-hour victories in the tournament against Novak Djokovic (defending champion and No. No. 1 seed -- again this afternoon, even though he was playing on a foot without feeling.
Ruud, a Norwegian 23-year-old who was playing in his first major final, said that "when you are playing defensively against Rafa's clay," "he will eat your alive."
Afterward, Nadal stated that he will explore other ways to help his foot, including a way to "burn, a little bit," the nerve. This could allow him to try Wimbledon, where he won two of his 22 Grand Slam titles. The All England Club will host play on June 27.
Nadal stated that if these treatments fail, he may need to have what he called major surgery.
Nadal stated, "It's evident that with the circumstances (in which I am playing)," "I can't and don't want [to continue].
Nadal thanked his support team and family, including the doctor who accompanied him on the trip to Paris, during the trophy ceremony. Without them, he would have had to "retire many before."
Nadal stated that he didn't know what the future holds, but that he would fight to continue fighting.
He played so well Sunday that he accumulated more than twice the number of winners as Ruud (37 to 16). Nadal made 16 unforced errors to Ruud's 26. Nadal won the next game despite trailing 3-1 in set 2.
Nadal stated, "Everything went very smoothly after that moment."
What's the view from the other end of the net?
Ruud stated, "I'm just another victim," and "that he destroyed on this court."
Ruud's most lasting memory of this day is hearing the announcer recount the long list of years Nadal has won the French Open in the past: 2005, 2006 and 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014; 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Ruud stated, "It seems like it never stops," It takes about half an hour."
The first chants of Ra-fa were heard when the players met at net for the prematch coin draw. In the stadium of 15,000 seats, Ra-fa! was heard. Ruud would hear people in the stands pronounce his last name slowly, making it sound like they were booing.