Casper Ruud ready to face mentor Rafael Nadal in French Open final

The 23-year-old Norwegian has never faced Nadal, 36, in a competitive match but the pair played plenty of times at the Rafael Nadal Academy
Casper Ruud ready to face mentor Rafael Nadal in French Open final

Andy Sims, PA, Paris

Four years ago Casper Ruud was honing his skills as a teenage rookie at the Rafael Nadal Academy in Majorca.

On Sunday the 23-year-old Norwegian will face his mentor, the 21-time grand slam champion, in the French Open final.

Ruud has never faced 36-year-old Nadal in a competitive match, but the pair have played plenty of times on the practice court.

Eighth seed Ruud admitted: “We have played some practice sets, and he has always pretty much beaten me.

“There’s been some close sets, 7-6, 7-5, but it always goes his favour. But it’s because we are playing in the academy and I want to be nice to him.”

Nadal has an unblemished record in Roland Garros finals, having won all 13 that he has reached.

Mariano Puerta, Roger Federer, Robin Soderling, Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer, Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem have all tried, and failed, to knock the king of clay off his throne.

“I probably watched all of them,” added Ruud. “I think I could probably tell you all the finals and who he has played and who he has beaten, because I watched them all on TV.

“It’s going be amazing to be there myself when you have seen players like Puerta, Federer, Djokovic, Thiem, all the guys who have played him in a final.

“So to be a part of that group myself is something I can always brag about after my career.

“Hopefully I will, of course, give it a shot at the title, and it would be nicer to be able to brag about the title as well after my career.

“I will try to figure something else out other than in the practice, how to beat him. I will just enjoy the moment. This is a special occasion for both of us. He’s playing for his 22nd. I’m playing for my first.”

France Tennis French Open
Nadal is hunting grand slam number 22 (Michel Euler/AP)

Ruud is in his first grand slam final, after beating Marin Cilic in four sets on Friday night, but Nadal is not taking his old student lightly.

“I think in the academy we were able to help him a little bit during this period of time,” said Nadal.

“But more than another thing it’s about I like to see the good person achieving his dreams.

“For me, Casper is one of the candidates for winning in every clay-court event that he’s playing. He’s one of the clear favourites. He’s not a big surprise at all.”

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