A 21-time Major champion, taking on a first-time finalist. Master taking on apprentice. The King of Clay taking on one of the out-and-out clay court specialists in the game. The narrative arcs for Sunday are aplenty as French Open 2022 comes to a close in Paris.

Rafael Nadal reached his 14th French Open final. He might not have liked the way he reached the title clash, with Alexander Zverev retiring hurt in their last-four clash after suffering a sickening right ankle injury.

On Sunday, Nadal will play in his 30th Grand Slam final when he tackles Casper Ruud, the first Norwegian man to make a championship match at the majors.

French Open: Nadal aims to become oldest Roland Garros champion, student Ruud stands in his way

Nadal was 7-6 (10/8), 6-6 ahead when Zverev was forced to quit while Ruud saw off Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in his semi-final.

Ruud became the first Norwegian man to reach a Grand Slam final on Friday when he set-up a French Open title clash with 13-time champion Rafael Nadal, the man he described as his “idol”.

“It was a great match from my side, I didn’t start the greatest but Marin played a very good first set,” said the 23-year-old Norwegian. “I look up to Rafa. He’s the perfect example of how to behave on the court, never gives up and never complains. He’s been my idol all my life.”

“He’s the last player of the Big Three that I’ve never played against, so I guess this is perfect timing. To play him in a Grand Slam final will be great. Hopefully for him too, to be playing against a student from his academy,” he added.

Here are some statistical nuggets ahead of the men’s singles final:

  • Nadal, who turned 36 on Friday (7-1 on birthdays at Roland Garros) will be playing in his 30th Grand Slam final and aims to become the oldest men’s champion at French Open and capture a record-extending 22nd major title. If he wins, Nadal would pass fellow Spaniard Andres Gimeno as the oldest Roland Garros men’s singles champion in history. Gimeno set the record 50 years ago. In the Open Era, he seeks to become the fourth oldest male singles Major champion.
via ATP Media

  • Nadal has never won Australian Open and French Open in the same year previously in his career.
  • Ruud, the first Norwegian man to reach Grand Slam final, could become the first men’s player since Nadal at 2005 Roland Garros to compete in his first Major quarter-final, semi-final and final and go on to win the title at the same event.
  • While Nadal and Ruud know each other well, from the latter’s time at his academy, Sunday will be the first time they meet on ATP Tour. The last time we had a first-time meeting in a Grand Slam men’s final was Djokovic vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the 2008 Australian Open. The last time we had a first-time meeting at Roland Garros men’s final was Gustavo Kuerten vs. Sergi Bruguera in 1997.
  • Nadal’s 13 Roland Garros titles are the most won by any man at a single Grand Slam event in history. Novak Djokovic’s nine at the Australian Open and Roger Federer’s eight at Wimbledon are next in the list.
  • Nadal is unquestionably the greatest of all time on clay with 62 of his 91 titles, 473-45 record overall (.913), 136-3 record in best-of-5-set matches (.978), 81-match win streak (2005-07), 50-set win streak (2017-18) and 0 losing streaks.
  • Ruud is one of the out-and-out clay court specialists currently. He swept clay-court titles at Bastad, Gstaad and Kitzbuhel in July 2021. He reached reached ATP Masters 1000 SFs at 2020 Rome, 2021 Monte Carlo, 2021 Madrid and 2022 Rome and leads ATP Tour since start of 2020 season in clay-court wins, finals and titles.

via ATP Media

  • Ruud is the first Scandinavian man in a Grand Slam final since Robin Soderling (remember him?) at 2010 Roland Garros. He would be the youngest Grand Slam men’s champion since Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 US Open (who was 20 then).

Nadal’s 21st Grand Slam titles: The Finals

2022 Australian Open bt Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 2-6, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5

2020 French Open bt Novak Djokovic (SRB) 6-0, 6-2, 7-5

2019 US Open bt Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4

2019 French Open bt Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1

2018 French Open bt Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-4, 6-3, 6-2

2017 US Open bt Kevin Anderson (RSA) 6-3, 6-3, 6-4

2017 French Open bt Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 6-2, 6-3, 6-1

2014 French Open bt Novak Djokovic (SRB) 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4

2013 US Open bt Novak Djokovic (SRB) 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1

2013 French Open bt David Ferrer (ESP) 6-3, 6-2, 6-3

2012 French Open bt Novak Djokovic (SRB) 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5

2011 French Open bt Roger Federer (SUI) 7-5, 7-6 (7/3), 5-7, 6-1

2010 US Open bt Novak Djokovic (SRB) 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2

2010 Wimbledon bt Tomas Berdych (CZE) 6-3, 7-5, 6-4

2010 French Open bt Robin Soderling (SUI) 6-4, 6-2, 6-4

2009 Australian Open bt Roger Federer (SUI) 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-2

2008 Wimbledon bt Roger Federer (SUI) 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7/5), 6-7 (10/8), 9-7

2008 French Open bt Roger Federer (SUI) 6-1, 6-3, 6-0

2007 French Open bt Roger Federer (SUI) 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4

2006 French Open bt Roger Federer (SUI) 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4)

2005 French Open bt Mariano Puerta (ARG) 6-7 (7/6), 6-3, 6-1, 7-5

All stats courtesy ATP Media

Text inputs from AFP