'Rafael Nadal is best Spanish athlete in history,' says Spanish king Felipe VI

Tennis - Nadal claimed the 22nd Major title on Sunday at Roland Garros

by Jovica Ilic
'Rafael Nadal is best Spanish athlete in history,' says Spanish king Felipe VI

Rafael Nadal lifted the 14th Roland Garros title last week, restoring the order in Paris and moving two Major crowns in front of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Alongside his team and family, the Spanish king Felipe VI was among the spectators on Court Philippe-Chatrier in Sunday's final.

Rafa gave the king something to cheer about, beating Casper Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in two hours and 18 minutes and lifting the 22nd Major trophy. It was Nadal's 14th win from as many finals in Paris and his 112th victory from 115 matches at his beloved Major.

Despite many setbacks with injuries, Rafa has won the season's opening two Majors for the first time in a career and wrote new pages of history books. King Felipe VI congratulated Nadal after the match and labeled him as the most significant Spanish athlete of all time.

Rafa made a perfect start to the season and scored 20 wins in 21 encounters before experiencing a rib fracture. Nadal returned to action in Madrid, but he produced only a couple of wins in Caja Magica and Foro Italico. Like many times before, Nadal raised his level at Roland Garros, playing under injections and scoring seven victories to regain the title and extend his dominance.

Spanish king Felipe VI praised Rafael Nadal in Paris.

Nadal toppled Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round in five sets, making a fresh start in the decider and setting the quarter-final clash against Novak Djokovic.

The defending champion gave his best to stop Nadal, leading 5-2 in the fourth set and creating two set points on serve at 5-3. Rafa endured all the efforts and scored a massive 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 triumph in four hours and 12 minutes for a place in the last four.

Alexander Zverev was ready to challenge him under a roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier, and they pushed each other to the limits for over three hours on slow court. After two marathon sets, Nadal led 7-6, 6-6 before Alexander experienced an ankle injury that ruined his campaign and forced him to retire and propel Rafa into the final.

With the first-time Major finalist Casper Ruud on the other side of the net, Nadal was the favorite to lift the 14th Roland Garros title. The Norwegian tried his best in sets one and two, but his backhand and serve could not match the rival's pace.

Nadal opened two sets to love advantage and stormed over the opponent in the decider to deliver a bagel and celebrate his 22nd Major title. "Rafa is, without a doubt, the best athlete in the history of Spain. At the end of the match, I thanked him.

Spain has to pay him a tribute for many, many years. Nadal is the king of Roland Garros and the tennis world. He has achieved a record that will be very difficult to beat," King Felipe VI said.

Rafael Nadal Roland Garros