World No. 5 Rafael Nadal was in the middle of a great semi-final match against world No. 3 Alexander Zverev, but the German severely injured his ankle before the two were able to play a second-set tiebreaker. Nadal, who won the first set 7-6 (8), then advanced to the final via retirement, as Zverev was unable to finish. Now, Nadal will go for his 22nd Grand Slam title, and 14th championship at Roland Garros, in a meeting with world No. 8 Casper Ruud.

Ruud, who has looked up to Nadal throughout his career, and has also spent time training at the Spaniard’s academy, looked great in a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win over world No. 23 Marin Cilic in the semifinals. Ruud has now earned victories over some tough opponents on his way to reaching this final, beating Lorenzo Sonego, Hubert Hurkacz and Holger Rune before defeating Cilic. Cilic had also been playing some great tennis before losing to Ruud, so that should give you a good idea of how well the Norwegian is playing.


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The problem heading into this match is that Ruud’s style of play is just a watered down version of Nadal’s. The 23-year-old tries to hit some heavy-topspin shots with his forehand, and that can make things difficult on most opponents. But it’s unlikely that will work on Nadal, who has mastered the terre batture on offense and defense. The Spaniard should know exactly how to attack Ruud’s game, and it’s also nice that the 36-year-old didn’t have to play a long match against Zverev—despite the two sets still taking over three hours. That match-up looked like it had a real chance at going the distance, and that would have taken a lot out of Nadal and it could have caused his chronic foot injury to flare up. But Nadal will now be in a much better physical place heading into the final.

Also, given how many times Nadal has won on Court Phillipe Chatrier, the veteran is going to be as comfortable as ever on this grand stage. This is essentially home for the Spaniard, but Ruud is playing in his first Grand Slam final—on this court, and against this opponent. His nerves could get out of hand, not unlike Coco Gauff on Saturday.

With that said, we like Nadal to win this one in straight sets, and the odds on the legend to do that aren’t all that bad. Perhaps Ruud’s time will come at some point in the future, but it’s a really difficult ask for him to go out and beat a guy he looks up to in this spot.

The Pick: Ruud To Not Win a Set (-130)