FINAL ADIEU?: In what could be his swansong, Rafael Nadal goes down fighting against Zverev in earliest French Open exit : The Tribune India

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FINAL ADIEU?: In what could be his swansong, Rafael Nadal goes down fighting against Zverev in earliest French Open exit

FINAL ADIEU?: In what could be his swansong, Rafael Nadal goes down fighting against Zverev in earliest French Open exit

Rafa Nadal crashed to his earliest exit at the French Open today after a 6-3 7-6(5) 6-3 first-round defeat by fourth seed Alexander Zverev, with fans wondering if the 14-time champion will return to the Grand Slam he has ruled for two decades.



PARIS, May 27

Rafa Nadal crashed to his earliest exit at the French Open today after a 6-3 7-6(5) 6-3 first-round defeat by fourth seed Alexander Zverev, with fans wondering if the 14-time champion will return to the Grand Slam he has ruled for two decades.

Rafael Nadal’s camp and fans wear a dejected look. REUTERS

The 22-time Major champion, who won the Musketeers’ Cup for the first time in 2005 and last raised the trophy in 2022, had previously said this year could be his final one on the tour. Having returned to the tournament that he skipped in 2023 and refusing to confirm any farewells ahead of his opener, Nadal showed flashes of top form again on Court Philippe Chatrier but the 37-year-old ultimately went down fighting.

4 This was the Spaniard’s fourth defeat in 116 matches at the French Open since his debut in 2005.

3 Zverev became only the third player after Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic to trump Nadal at the claycourt Slam

I’m not 100% sure if it’s the last time but I enjoyed it. The feelings today are difficult to describe with words but it’s special to feel the love in the place I love the most. Rafael Nadal

“I’m not 100% sure if it’s the last time but I enjoyed it, the crowd were amazing during the whole week of preparation and today,” Nadal said as the crowd rose to their feet. “The feelings today are difficult to describe with words but it’s special to feel the love in the place I love the most. I enjoy playing a lot and travelling with the family. The body is feeling better than two months ago. Maybe in two months I say it’s enough. But it’s something I don’t feel yet.”

Victory meant Zverev became only the third man to beat Nadal at Roland Garros, after Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling, with the German also banishing memories of his retirement due to an ankle injury when the duo last met in the 2022 semifinals. “I don’t know what to say... thank you Rafa from all of the tennis world, it’s such a great honour,” Zverev said. “I’ve watched Rafa play all my childhood and I was lucky enough to play him twice on this beautiful court.”

In a jungle

Nadal likened his struggles with injury in the last 18 months to being in a jungle as the Spaniard hoped to return to Roland Garros for the Olympics. Never far from physical issues in his glittering career, the 37-year-old missed almost all of 2023 with a hip problem and his comeback earlier this year was stalled by a muscle tear, before small niggles affected his preparation for the claycourt Major.

Nadal said he could not predict how his battered body would respond to the demands of the Games in July and August. “My body has been a jungle for two years. You don’t know what to expect. I wake up one day and I find a snake biting me. Another day a tiger,” Nadal said.

“I’ve been fighting with all the things that I went through. But the dynamic is positive the last few weeks. I felt ready. I think tomorrow I’ll be ready to play again if I have to. But I will not have to. So that’s the thing. Now, I need to prepare myself, I need to clear my ideas and see what’s the new calendar to try to be ready for Olympics. I can’t say anything today, but my main goal now is to play the Olympics.”

Nadal will be eyeing his third gold medal after triumphing in singles in the 2008 Beijing Games and doubles eight years later in Rio. — Reuters

#French Open #Grand Slam Tournament #Rafael Nadal #Tennis


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