Rafael Nadal’s 2007 French Open Tennis Racket Sells for $118K in Auction

One of Rafael Nadal‘s title-winning rackets is a hot item…

The 37-year-old Spanish professional tennis player and former World No. 1’s racket from his 2007 French Open final victory over Roger Federer was sold for more than $118,000 at an auction Monday, ranking among the highest-priced memorabilia.

Rafael NadalNadal beat Federer 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-4 in the 2007 final at Roland Garros with the Babolat AeroPro Drive racket to win his third Grand Slam title before the Spaniard moved on to secure 19 more — 14 of them in Paris– to become one of the sport’s greatest players.

The racket, which Nadal also used in previous matches at the tournament, including his semifinal victory against Novak Djokovic, sold for $118,206 at an online auction, Prestige Memorabilia‘s The Tennis Auction, that closed on Monday.

Rafael Nadal 2007 French Open Racket

It was previously housed in the Australian Tennis Museum prior to its recent closure.

Previous highest individual tennis racket auction sales include Nadal’s 2022 Australian Open racket ($139,700), Billie Jean King‘s “Battle of the Sexes” racket ($125,000) and Djokovic’s 2016 French Open racket ($107,482).

Nadal missed the recent Australian Open this month after suffering a small muscle tear during his comeback from a long injury layoff at the Brisbane International earlier in January.

He, however, is set to return on the court in February during the ATP 250 tournament in Doha.

Carlos Alcaraz Defeats Novak Djokovic to Claim Career First Wimbledon Title

Carlos Alcaraz is living his dream…

The 20-year-old Spanish tennis player and world won his first Wimbledon title and second Grand Slam title in less than a year after outlasting seven-time Wimbledon champ Novak Djokovic 1-6, 7-6 (6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, ending the 36-year-old Serbian’s quest for the calendar Grand Slam in 2023.

Carlos Alcaraz,The match lasted four hours and 42 minutes and was the third-longest final in Wimbledon history.

“It’s a dream come true for me,” Alcaraz said on court after the match. “It’s great to win, but even if I would have lost, I would be really proud of myself, making history in this beautiful tournament, playing a final against a legend of our sport. It’s incredible.”

At 20 years, 72 days old, Alcaraz became the third-youngest men’s winner at Wimbledon in the Open era (since 1968).

Playing in only his fourth tournament on grass, Alcaraz has proven to be a quick study on the surface. In two previous appearances at the All England Club, Alcaraz had finished no better than the fourth round. He displayed marked improvement last year, but nothing about his performance signaled he would lift the Gentlemen’s Singles Trophy one year later or have the game — or gumption — to beat one of the all-time great grass-court players on Centre Court.

Before the second set Sunday, Djokovic’s serve had been broken only three times in 103 games this fortnight. Alcaraz did better than that in three sets, storming back from a disastrous opening hour of tennis. Djokovic was clinical in the first set. He dismantled Alcaraz’s forehand and rushed him into errors. Alcaraz won only his final service game that set, but he came alive on every point, as if the game were suddenly coming into focus.

After trading breaks with Djokovic in the second set, he faced him in a tiebreak. At Wimbledon. Down a set. In the final. On Centre Court. And he became the first person to beat the 23-time Grand Slam champ in a tiebreak since Rafael Nadal in the quarters of last year’s French Open. After clinching the 85-minute second set, he lifted his racket to the sky, enticing the Wimbledon crowd to enjoy the moment with him.

“Carlos! Carlos! Carlos!” they chanted in response. If there is a 12th man in football and a sixth man in basketball, the second man at Centre Court helped shift the momentum Alcaraz’s way. He won that set and the next one, but lost focus and the fourth 3-6, which forced a fifth. Then, in a sensational display of grit, endurance and newfound nerves of steel, he broke Djokovic’s serve in the third game and eventually toppled the Wimbledon great.

“I fought until the last ball, every ball,” Alcaraz said in his post-match press conference. “We made great rallies, great points. It was a long match, long sets and it was the mental part that allowed me to stay there during the five sets. To stay good physically and mentally for five hours against a legend, making history like I did today, it’s the happiest moment of my life. I don’t think that’s going to change for a long time.”

Alcaraz said many times this fortnight that he believed he could beat Djokovic in the final. But there’s a vast divide between believing and doing. What Alcaraz accomplished Sunday — in a changing-of-the-guard moment that’s being compared to Roger Federer’s 2001 upset of Pete Sampras here in the fourth round — is difficult to overstate. Djokovic hadn’t lost a match here since 2017. He is a seven-time Wimbledon champion and already won the first two majors of this year.

“For someone of his age to handle the nerves, be playing attacking tennis, and to close out the match the way he did, he came up with some amazing shots,” Djokovic said in his post-match press conference. “I must say, the slices, the chipping returns, the net play, it’s very impressive. I didn’t expect him to play so well this year on grass, but he’s proven that he’s the best player in the world, no doubt. He’s playing some fantastic tennis on different surfaces, and he deserves to be where he is.”

Djokovic was also on track to add a rare accomplishment: a calendar Grand Slam. That a player with 17 games of grass-court experience ended his hope of holding all four major titles within the same calendar year is remarkable. That Alcaraz simply outplayed Djokovic on the court where he built his dynasty is legend-making. With his win, Alcaraz becomes the second-youngest player to beat Djokovic in a major. The youngest? Alcaraz’s compatriot, Nadal, in the 2006 French Open quarterfinals.

Last month, after suffering a disappointing loss to Djokovic in the Roland Garros semifinal, Alcaraz opted to play a grass-court warmup tournament at London’s Queen’s Club. He looked uncomfortable and uncertain in the first round as he deciphered how to translate his game to grass. But with each match, he improved his footwork and moved with more confidence out of the corners. He said he’d been watching video of eight-time Wimbledon champion Federer, the player to whom he’s most compared, and former world No. 1 Andy Murray. He said he considers them to be the best movers on grass and wanted to emulate their style.

He won that Queen’s Club tournament and reclaimed the No. 1 ranking he’d relinquished to Djokovic after the French. More important than the ranking, though, was the belief he gained with that title.

But he had no easy route. Over seven matches, Alcaraz toppled three top-25 players, as well as the No. 2 and 3 players in the world, to take the title. After his win against Daniil Medvedev, he said he’d played one of his best matches not only on grass, but on any surface, and called his execution “amazing.” Then he graded himself an “eight out of 10.” Sunday, he raised that score.

“Before this match, I thought, ‘I can’t beat Novak.’ But after this epic match, I’ll think different about Novak. In other Grand Slams, I will remember this moment,” Alcaraz said.

Carlos Alcaraz Handily Defeats Stefanos Tsitsipas to Reach French Open Semifinals

Carlos Alcaraz is two wins away from another Grand Slam title…

The 20-year-old Spanish tennis player put in one of the best performances of the year with an impressive straight-sets 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (5) victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas to set up a highly anticipated clash with Novak Djokovic in the French Open semifinals.

Carlos AlcarazThe match between Alcaraz and Tsitsipas – pitting the first and fifth seeds together – was expected to be tight, but in truth that was rarely the case, with Alcaraz putting in a highlight reel of a display that felt like it was taking the game to a new level thanks to his hybrid game style that at once is comparable to all of the greats that have come before him – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic.

And the clash between the latter and Alcaraz on Friday is expected to be a must-watch event.

Talking on court afterwards about how he’d managed to play so well, Alcaraz said: “Believing in myself, all the time. That’s the most important thing, not only for me but for everyone – believe in yourself. I always think I’m going to play this kind of matches, in this level – I would say that’s the key to everything, [to play] with enjoyment.”

Tsitsipas had begun the encounter with a comprehensive, ace-laden service hold, but that was about as good as it got for the Greek tennis player, as Alcaraz put the hammer down thereafter.

He broke Tsitsipas on his fourth break-point opportunity in game three, and then went a double break up later in the set when he took the Greek’s serve to love.

That game involved a stunning, running down-the-line pass that drew gasps from the crowd.

Alcaraz – via wonderful drop shots in back-to-back points – served it out thereafter as he took the opener in style.

In set two the masterclass continued as this time the Spaniard broke three times to double his advantage as he took it 6-1.

Tsitsipas began to celebrate ironically in set three when he won a point, such was Alcaraz’s total dominance of the encounter.

An early break saw the 20-year-old get halfway to the set, but Tsitsipas was battling hard and as Alcaraz served for the set at 5-3, the Greek took the second of his break points – his first such opportunities of the whole night – to suddenly make it interesting.

The third set went all the way to a tie-break as it got the ending it deserved for a more even contest, but it was Alcaraz who pulled away once more, taking it 7-5 and earning his spot to face Djokovic in a semi-final clash that will be watched the world over.

Penélope Cruz to Serve as Co-Chair of 2023 Met Gala

Penélope Cruz has Met her match…

The 48-year-old Spanish Oscar-winning actress will serve as a co-chair of this year’s Met Gala, an annual exclusive fashion exhibition for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Penelope Cruz

Cruz is among a list of celebrity co-chairs that includes Dua Lipa, Roger Federer and Michaela Coel.

They’ll be joined by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, who has led the event since 1995.

Co-chairs serve as ambassadors for the event, according to Vogue. They provide input on the eclectic guest list, decor and the overall vibe of the event, which is invitation-only and to which tickets are priced at $35,000.

The 2023 theme for the fashion event is “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.”

On the evening of the May 1 event, celebrities will honor Lagerfeld’s legacy. He led the fashion houses Chanel, Fendi, and Chloé before his death in 2019.

Carlos Alcaraz Becomes Youngest Year-End No. 1 in ATP History

Carlos Alcaraz has another a place in tennis history once again…

The 19-year-old Spanish professional tennis player is the youngest year-end No. 1 in the history of the ATP computerized rankings.

Carlos AlcarazHe also joins fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal as the first players from the same country to claim the top two spots at the close of a season since Americans Pete Sampras and Michael Chang in 1996.

The final men’s tennis rankings for 2022 were published Monday, and Alcaraz’s rise from No. 32 at the end of 2021 is the largest single-season jump to No. 1.

Alcaraz, who turned 19 in May, has remained atop the rankings since he won his first Grand Slam title at the US Open in September by beating Casper Ruud in the final.

That made Alcaraz the first male teen at No. 1 since the ATP computerized rankings began in 1973.

He’s the first man in 20 years other than Nadal, Roger FedererNovak Djokovic or Andy Murray — since Andy Roddick in 2003 — to finish at No. 1.

Alcaraz ended his season early after tearing an abdominal muscle while competing at the Paris Masters a month ago.

The 36-year-old Nadal, meanwhile, is the oldest man to finish a year ranked first or second. He also extended his own record by placing in the top 10 at the end of a year for the 18th consecutive season. The recently retired Federer is the only other man with that many top-10 finishes over the course of a career.

Nadal won the Australian Open and French Open to raise his men’s-record Grand Slam total to 22 trophies, one ahead of Djokovic and two ahead of Federer.

Ruud finishes at No. 3, followed by No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 5 Djokovic, No. 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime, No. 7 Daniil Medvedev, No. 8 Andrey Rublev, No. 9 Taylor Fritz and No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz.

Djokovic couldn’t play at the Australian Open or US Open because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and didn’t earn any rankings boost for his title at Wimbledon because the WTA and ATP stripped that tournament of any points over the All England Club‘s ban on players from Russia and Belarus.

Rafael Nadal to Play Doubles with Roger Federer at Laver Cup

Rafael Nadal is partnering with his oldest rival…

The 36-year-old Spanish tennis superstar will join forces with Roger Federer as he plays the final professional match of his career at the Laver Cup in London on Friday.

Rafael NadalAt Thursday’s draw, it was confirmed that Federer will join Nadal for Team Europe against the American pair of Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock for Team World on Friday night.

Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam champion, will then be replaced by Italy’s Matteo Berrettini for the rest of the event.

“It’s super special playing with Rafa,” Federer said in a news conference. “… To be able to do that one more time, I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful.”

Said Nadal: “Tomorrow is going to be a special thing. Difficult. Going to be difficult to handle everything, especially for Roger, without a doubt. But for me too. At the end, one of the most important players — if not the most important player — in my tennis career is leaving.”

Federer, 41, who announced last week that he’s retiring because of an ongoing right knee issue, had said Wednesday that playing alongside 22-time Slam champion Nadal would be a unique, fitting way to go out.

“For as long as we battled together, having had always this respect for one another, our families, coaching teams, for us as well to go through a career we both have had, come out the other side and have a nice relationship, is maybe a great message to tennis and beyond,” Federer said.

The three-day team event will begin Friday afternoon at The O2 Arena with two singles matches. Norwegian Casper Ruud, the runner-up at the US Open earlier this month, will play Sock in the opener before Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece takes on Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman.

The evening session will begin with former world No. 1 Andy Murray up against Alex de Minaur before Federer takes the court for the final time.

“I’m not sure if I can handle it all, but I’ll try,” Federer said Thursday about his sure-to-be-emotional on-court farewell.

Tiafoe, who beat Nadal en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open this month, deadpanned about the matchup, “Yeah, I’m just excited to play two up-and-comers tomorrow,” before adding, “It’s going to be iconic to be a part of that. Both guys are absolute legends.”

Federer and Nadal played each other in singles 40 times (Nadal won 26), including 14 Grand Slam matchups (Nadal won 10, going 6-3 in finals). Nadal came out on top in their classic 2008 Wimbledon final, considered by some the greatest match in history, while Federer won their last showdown, in the 2019 semifinals at the All England Club.

They also played one other doubles match together, defeating Jack Sock and Sam Querrey at the inaugural Laver Cup in 2017.

“To be part of this historic moment,” Nadal said about Friday, “is going to be something amazing, unforgettable.”

Carlos Alcaraz Wins US Open Title to Become Youngest Man to Lead ATP Rankings

Carlos Alcaraz has doubled up on his significant achievements…

The 19-year-old Spanish tennis player defeated Casper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3 to claim his first Grand Slam title at the US Open, in his first appearance in a Grand Slam final no less.

Carlos AlcarazIn the process, Alcaraz is now the No. 1 player in men’s tennis.

Alcaraz used his combination of moxie and maturity to Ruud for the trophy at Flushing Meadows and become the youngest man to lead the ATP rankings.

“Well, this is something that I dreamed of since I was a kid,” said Alcaraz, whom folks of a certain age might still consider a kid. “It’s something I worked really, really hard [for]. It’s tough to talk right now. A lot of emotions.”

Appearing in his eighth major tournament and second at Flushing Meadows, Alcaraz has attracted plenty of attention as someone considered the next big thing in men’s tennis.

He’s the youngest man to win a major title since Rafael Nadal was the same age at the 2005 French Open, and the youngest at the US Open since 19-year-old Pete Sampras in 1990.

“He’s one of these few rare talents that comes up every now and then in sports. That’s what it seems like,” said Ruud, a 23-year-old from Norway. “Let’s see how his career develops, but it’s going all in the right direction.”

Alcaraz was serenaded by choruses of “Ole, Ole, Ole! Carlos!” that reverberated off the closed roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium — and he often motioned to the supportive spectators to get louder.

He only briefly showed signs of fatigue from having to get through three consecutive five-setters to reach the title match, something no one had done in New York in 30 years. He spent a total of 23 hours, 40 minutes on court in the tournament, the most by any men’s player during any one major tournament since the start of 2000.

Alcaraz went five sets against 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in the fourth round, ending at 2:23 a.m. Tuesday; against Jannik Sinner in the quarterfinals, a 5-hour, 15-minute thriller that ended at 2:50 a.m. Friday after Alcaraz needed to save a match point; and against Frances Tiafoe in the semifinals.

“You have to give everything on court. You have to give everything you have inside. I worked really, really hard to earn it,” Alcaraz said after the final. “It’s not time to be tired.”

This was not a stroll to the finish, though.

Alcaraz dropped the second set and faced a pair of set points while down 6-5 in the third. But he erased each of those point-from-the-set opportunities for Ruud with the sorts of quick-reflex, soft-hand volleys he repeatedly displayed. And with help from a series of shanked shots by a tight-looking Ruud in the ensuing tiebreaker, Alcaraz surged to the end of that set.

“He just played too good on those points. We’ve seen it many times before: He steps up when he needs to,” Ruud said. ‘When it’s close, he pulls out great shots.”

One break in the fourth was all it took for Alcaraz to seal the victory in the only Grand Slam final between two players seeking both a first major championship and the top spot in the ATP’s computerized rankings, which date to 1973.

The winner was guaranteed to be first in Monday’s rankings; the loser was guaranteed to be second.

“Both Carlos and I, we knew what we were playing for. We knew what was at stake,” Ruud said. “I think it’s fitting. I’m disappointed, of course, that I’m not No. 1, but No. 2 is not too bad, either.”

He is now 0-2 in Slam finals after being runner-up to Nadal at the French Open in June.

Ruud stood way back near the wall to return serve, but also during the course of points, much more so than Alcaraz, who attacked when he could. Alcaraz went after Ruud’s weaker side, the backhand, and found success that way, especially while serving.

If nothing else, Ruud gets the sportsmanship award for conceding a point he knew he didn’t deserve. It came while he was trailing 4-3 in the first set; he raced forward to a short ball that bounced twice before Ruud’s racket touched it.

Play continued, and Alcaraz hesitated and then flubbed his response. But Ruud told the chair umpire what had happened, giving the point to Alcaraz, who gave his foe a thumbs-up and applauded right along with the spectators to acknowledge the move.

Alcaraz certainly seems to be a rare talent, possessing an enviable all-court game, a blend of groundstroke power with a willingness to push forward and close points with his volleying ability. He won 34 of 45 points when he went to the net Sunday. He is a threat while serving — he delivered 14 aces at up to 128 mph on Sunday — and returning, earning 11 break points, converting three.

Alcaraz, Ruud said, showed “incredible fighting spirit and will to win.”

Make no mistake: Ruud is no slouch, either. There’s a reason he is the youngest man since Nadal to get to two major finals in one season and managed to win a 55-shot point, the longest of the tournament, in the semifinals Friday.

But this was Alcaraz’s time to shine under the lights.

For context on the rankings, it is helpful to know that Novak Djokovic did not play at the US Open or Australian Open this year, unable to enter those countries because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19, and did not receive any ranking boost for his Wimbledon championship because no points were on offer for anyone after the All England Club banned athletes from Russia and Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine.

Regardless of the circumstances, it is significant that Alcaraz is the first male teenager at No. 1. No one else did it. Not Nadal, not Djokovic, not Federer, not Sampras. No one.

When one last service winner glanced off Ruud’s frame, Alcaraz dropped to his back on the court, then rolled over onto his stomach, covering his face with his hands. Then he went into the stands for hugs with his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, a former No. 1 himself who won the French Open in 2003 and reached the final of that year’s US Open, and others, crying all the while.

You get to No. 1 for the first time only once. You win a first Grand Slam title only once. Many folks expect Alcaraz to be celebrating these sorts of feats for years to come.

Rafael Nadal Surpasses Martina Navratilova on All-Time Grand Slam Match Victories List

Rafael Nadal is moving on up…

The 36-year-old Spanish professional tennis player has advanced to the third round of Wimbledon for the 11th time after defeating Ricardas Berankis 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 on Thursday.

Rafael NadalIt was Nadal’s 307th Grand Slam match win, advancing him past Martina Navratilova in fourth place on the all-time list, behind Roger Federer (369), Serena Williams (365) and Novak Djokovic (330).

“Not the best start honestly,” Nadal said of Thursday’s victory. “I finished playing well. The fourth set has been the level of tennis for me, important improvement. The rest of the things, I have room to improve.”

Nadal is looking for a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam title, and third Wimbledon trophy.

Rafael Nadal Defeats Casper Ruud to Claim 14th French Open Title

Rafael Nadal has officially reclaimed his King of Clay title…

The 36-year-old Spanish tennis star overwhelmed Casper Ruud in straight sets on Sunday to win his record-extending 14th French Open championship and 22nd Grand Slam title.

Rafael NadalBut he revealed after the match that he needed an injection to his ailing left foot just to be able to play.

Nadal told Eurosport after his 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 victory that he received an injection to numb his foot for Sunday’s final.

“The preparation was not ideal,” he said. “I had a stress fracture of the rib, then I have the foot [pain], which stays there all the time. I had my doctor here with me — I don’t know how to say in English what we did. We played with no feeling on the foot, we played with an injection in the nerve so the foot was asleep — that’s why I was able to play.”

During the trophy ceremony, Nadal thanked his family and support team for helping him, because otherwise, he would have needed to “retire much before.”

“I don’t know what can happen in the future,” Nadal told the crowd, “but I’m going to keep fighting to try to keep going.”

Nadal revealed during his media availability after the match that he’d been undergoing frequent injections into a nerve throughout the past two weeks at Roland Garros, serving to numb the pain in his foot caused by Mueller-Weiss syndrome. It is not a long-term solution to the chronic foot problem, and he is expected to visit a specialist next week to undergo a fresh procedure — a radiofrequency nerve ablation.

The success of that procedure will dictate whether he plays Wimbledon or not.

“I’m going to be in Wimbledon if my body is ready to be in Wimbledon,” Nadal said. “That’s it. Wimbledon is not a tournament that I want to miss. I think nobody want to miss Wimbledon. I love Wimbledon.”

He said if the procedure doesn’t work, he’ll have to decide if he’s ready to undergo a major surgery with no guarantee that it will be successful and might require a prolonged recovery time.

But he did confirm he would not go through the whole process of getting injections daily to get him through Wimbledon.

“Wimbledon is a priority, always [has] been a priority. If I am able to play with anti-inflammatories? Yes. To play with anaesthetic injections? No. I don’t want to put myself in that position again. Can happen once, but no, is not a philosophy of life that I want to follow.

“So let’s see. I am always a positive guy, and I always expect things going the right way. So let’s be confident, and let’s be positive. Then let’s see what’s going on.”

Nadal’s victory came two days after his 36th birthday and made him the oldest title winner in the history of the clay-court tournament. The oldest champion in tournament history had been Andres Gimeno, who was 34 when he won in 1972.

Ruud led 3-1 in the second set, a deficit that spurred Nadal to raise his level — he took the last 11 games. Nadal’s six games lost Sunday are tied for his second fewest in a major final. He has won six major finals in which he has conceded fewer than 10 games, breaking a tie with Richard Sears for the most by any man in tennis history.

Given his age, and of more concern, the chronic pain in his left foot that has been an off-and-on problem for years, Nadal has said repeatedly in recent days that he can never be sure whether each match at Court Philippe Chatrier might be his last.

He played crisply and cleanly, accumulating more than twice as many winners as Ruud, 37 to 16. Nadal also committed fewer unforced errors, making just 16 to Ruud’s 26.

When it ended with a down-the-line backhand from Nadal, he chucked his racket to the red clay he loves so much and covered his face with the taped-up fingers on both of his hands.

The Spanish star’s first triumph in Paris came in 2005 at age 19. No man or woman ever has won the singles trophy at any major event more times than his 14 in Paris. And no man has won more Grand Slam titles than Nadal.

He is two ahead of rivals Roger Federer, who hasn’t played in almost a year after a series of knee operations, and Novak Djokovic, who missed the Australian Open in January because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

 

For all that he has accomplished already, Nadal now has done something he never managed previously: He is halfway to a calendar-year Grand Slam thanks to titles at the Australian Open and French Open in the same season.

Nadal improved to 14-0 in finals at Roland Garros and 112-3 overall at his favorite tournament.

“You are a true inspiration for me, for everyone who follows tennis around the world,” said Ruud, a 23-year-old from Norway participating in his first Grand Slam final, “so I hope — we all hope — that you will continue for some more time.”

When the players met at the net for the prematch coin toss, the first chants of “Ra-fa! Ra-fa!” rang out in the 15,000-seat stadium. There would be more such choruses. Ruud heard his own support, especially when he briefly went up in the second set, with some in the stands marking points he won with drawn-out pronouncements of his last name, “Ruuuuuuud,” that sounded as if they might be booing.

Ruud considers Nadal his idol. He recalls watching all of Nadal’s past finals in Paris on TV. He has trained at Nadal’s tennis academy in Mallorca.

They have played countless practice sets together there with nothing more at stake than bragging rights. Nadal usually won those, and Ruud joked the other day that’s because he was trying to be a polite guest.

The two had never met in a real match until Sunday, when a championship, money, ranking points, prestige and a piece of history were on the line. And Nadal demonstrated, as he has so often, why he’s known as the King of Clay — and among the game’s greatest ever.

“We all know what a champion you are, and today I got to feel how it is to play against you in a final. And it’s not easy,” Ruud said. “I’m not the first victim. I know that there have been many before.”

Nadal can now place this latest Coupe des Mousquetaires alongside the trophies he gathered at Roland Garros from 2005 to ’08, 2010 to ’14 and 2017 to ’20. He has also won the US Open four times and the Australian Open and Wimbledon twice apiece.

“For me, personally, it’s very difficult to describe the feelings that I have,” Nadal said. “It’s something that I, for sure, never believed — to be here at 36, being competitive again, playing in the most favorite court of my career, one more time in the final. It means a lot to me. Means everything.”

Rafael Nadal Edges Past Novak Djokovic to Reach French Open Semifinals

Rafael Nadal is one step closer to reclaiming his throne…

The 35-year-old Spanish tennis star, known as the King of Clay, claimed a quarterfinal victory over longtime rival Novak Djokovic that began in May and ended in June at Roland Garros.

Rafael NadalWith a mix of brilliant shot-making and his trademark resilience, Nadal got past the top-seeded defending French Open champion Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) to move a step closer to his 14th championship at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament and what would be a 22nd major trophy overall, adding to records that he already owns.

“One of those magic nights for me,” Nadal said.

The match began a little past 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 31, and concluded more than four hours later, after 1 a.m. Wednesday, June 1.

The bracket said this was a quarterfinal, but it felt like a final — from the quality of play to the quality of effort, from the anticipation that preceded it to the atmosphere that enveloped it.

The only missing ingredient: There was no trophy handed to the winner.

Nadal turns 36 on Friday, when he’ll face third-seeded Alexander Zverev in the semifinals. When the subject of Nadal’s future was brought up during his on-court interview, he smiled.

“See you, by the way, in two days,” Nadal said. “That’s the only thing that I can say.”

It’ll be difficult for any match the rest of the way to live up to this one.

“I lost to a better player today,” said Djokovic, who had won 22 sets in a row until the 49-minute opener against Nadal. “Had my chances. Didn’t use them. That’s it.”

This showdown was their 59th, more than any other two men have played against each other in the Open era. Nadal narrowed Djokovic’s series lead to 30-29 while improving to 8-2 against his rival at Roland Garros.

Nadal is now 110-3 for his career at the place. Two of those losses came against Djokovic, including in last year’s semifinals. This time, Nadal made sure Djokovic remains behind him in the Slam count with 20. Nadal broke their three-way tie with Roger Federer at that number by capturing the Australian Open in January, when Djokovic was not able to play because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.