French Open: Nadal proudly battling through the pain ahead of Roland Garros final

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Rafael Nadal says battling through the pain of his foot injury makes reaching his 14th French Open final even more enjoyable.

Nadal missed a part of the 2021 season with a foot problem that has hampered him throughout most of his career, but returned to win the Australian Open in January.

That made him a 21-time grand slam winner, a record in men's tennis, and he now aims for his 22nd major at Roland Garros – a venue where he is a 14-time champion.

Casper Ruud or Marin Cilic will be the Spaniard's opponent in Sunday's final in Paris, after Alexander Zverev retired almost two sets into a gruelling semi-final on Court Philippe-Chatrier against Nadal on Friday.

The 36-year-old, who celebrated his birthday with semi-final victory, was quick to express his well wishes for Zverev both on the court and later in a news conference, with the German suffering an ankle injury.

Nadal is the third player in the Open era to reach 30 or more grand slam finals, after Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic (both 31), and he believes playing through the pain has been worth it.

"I explained everything going through my mind after Rome, and nothing changed," Nadal told reporters. "At the same time, I was not very positive after that about my foot, but I was positive that I will be able to play here.

"I played, I fought I did all the things possible to give myself at least a chance to be where I am and happy of course to be able to give myself another chance to play here in the final of Roland Garros.

"That means a lot to me. All the sacrifices and all the things that I need to go through to try to keep playing, really makes sense when you enjoy moments like I'm enjoying in this tournament.

"If you like what you are doing, you keep going. If you like to go and play golf, you keep going to play golf. If I like to play tennis and if I can and I can handle to keep playing, I keep playing because I like what I do.

"If I am healthy enough to play, I like the competition. I like to play in the best stadiums in the world and feel competitive at my age still.

"That makes me feel in some way proud and happy about all the work that we did."

Nadal led Zverev 7-6 (10-8) 6-6 before the world number three had to retire, though the encounter had lasted for over three hours by that point.

It was the third time in as many matches that Nadal has toiled on the clay in Paris, having overcome Djokovic in four sets after defeating Felix Auger-Aliassime in a five-set thriller.

Nevertheless, Nadal assures he is fit and fighting in preparation for the showpiece as he aims for a 14th French Open triumph.

"Physically I'm okay. Normally my problem is not the physical performance," he added. "Of course today the conditions have been very hot, super humid.

"I know from experience that when these conditions happen, I suffer a bit more physically. It happened to me in Australia against [Denis] Shapovalov.

"Today was different, not that crazy but I was suffering. There was a lot of up-and-downs during the match, but a good level of tennis with great points."

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