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Rafael Nadal has once again proved he is the "King of Clay." On June 5, 2022, the tennis phenom defeated Casper Rudd in three decisive sets to win a record-extending 14th French Open title. The 36-year-old is the oldest men's singles French Open champion and the first male tennis player to win 22 Grand Slam championships — the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic each hold 20 Grand Slam titles.
"For me, it's very difficult to describe the feelings that I have," Nadal said during his on-court trophy ceremony. "It's something I never believed. Being here at 36, being competitive again, playing on the most important court of my career ... it means everything. I don't know what can happen in the future, but I'm going to keep fighting to try to keep going so many times."
Nadal's achievements are even more remarkable given that a chronic foot problem almost drove him into retirement in 2021. Fortunately, the Spaniard recovered and, in January 2022, won his first Grand Slam of the year — the Australian Open. Since then, Nadal has suffered from a rib injury and the foot pain has also returned. Following the French Open final, the 36-year-old told the media that he had received injections to numb the pain throughout the two-week tournament.
"The preparation was not ideal," Nadal 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."
The champion now plans to undergo a procedure that may provide a long-term reprieve from the pain. The treatment's success will determine if he competes at the 2022 Wimbledon Championships, which start on June 27. If the procedure fails to work, Nadal will have to consider a major surgery, which may or may not fix the issue. It will also require a prolonged recovery.
"Wimbledon is a priority, always [has] been a priority. If I am able to play with anti-inflammatories? Yes. To play with anesthetic 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," Nadal said.
Resources: Rolandgarros.com, ESPN.com, CNN.com.