Rafael Nadal, a 14-time champion, is defeated by Alexander Zverev in the first round of the French Open

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Rafael Nadal leaves the court after the game

The crowd was loud and constant, cheering “Ra-fa! Ra-fa!” whenever Rafael Nadal showed flashes of brilliance, as he often does at the French Open and elsewhere.

Around 15,000 fans filled Court Philippe Chatrier on Monday, showing their support for Nadal, who considers the venue “magical.” They cheered during the coin toss, warm-up swings, and especially when Nadal executed his trademark shots. However, despite their encouragement, there weren’t enough standout moments for Nadal against Alexander Zverev.

Nadal, nearing 38 and frequently dealing with injuries, couldn’t muster enough vintage play to secure a victory. He lost 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in the first round, possibly marking the end of his dominance at Roland Garros.

“If it’s my last time playing here,” Nadal remarked, “I’m okay with that.” This loss marks the first time Nadal has been defeated in two consecutive matches on clay courts, following his loss to Hubert Hurkacz at the Italian Open on May 11. It’s also his earliest exit from the French Open, not making it past the fourth round.

“The past two years have been tough for me, working hard to come back here,” Nadal mentioned. “I may have lost, but that’s part of the game.”

Rafael Nadal reacts after missing the shot

He had previously suggested that 2024 might be his final season, but he’s not completely sure if he’ll return to the French Open again. This uncertainty comes after only his fourth loss in 116 matches at the tournament.

“I’m not saying I’m retiring today,” clarified the Spaniard, who had his 1 1/2-year-old son, Rafael Jr., watching from the stands.

While Nadal is unlikely to participate in Wimbledon, which starts on July 1, he hopes to return to Roland Garros later that month for the Olympics’ tennis competition.

The match on Monday ended in a disappointing manner, with the 22-time Grand Slam champion unable to play his usual way due to hip and abdominal injuries he’s dealt with for the past 1 1/2 years. Nadal underwent hip surgery during the 2023 French Open, marking the first time he missed the tournament since winning it as a teenager.

“My body has been unpredictable for two years,” Nadal explained. “Some days I felt like I was being bitten by a snake, other days like I was attacked by a tiger.”

Nadal, who will soon turn 38, has only played 16 matches and has an 8-8 record since last year. Due to his limited play, his ranking dropped to No. 275, and he wasn’t seeded for the French Open for the first time. Previously, he had never been seeded lower than No. 6 in his 18 appearances.

Rafael Nadal talks to the media after the game

This is why Nadal ended up facing Alexander Zverev, the No. 4 seed, who has had great achievements like being the runner-up at the 2020 U.S. Open and winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Zverev is also the only player to reach the semifinals in Paris for the past three years.

Nadal’s previous losses at Roland Garros were against Robin Soderling in 2009, and Novak Djokovic in 2015 and 2021. Djokovic, who has won 24 major championships, was present in the stands, along with younger stars Iga Swiatek and Carlos Alcaraz. Nadal’s uncle, Toni, who used to coach him, was also in attendance. The arena was filled to capacity, reflecting the significance of the event.

Every now and then, when Nadal scored a point, he’d shout “Vamos!” and do his signature celebratory move. His fans would cheer along, raising their fists or waving Spanish flags.

However, if Nadal made a mistake, there were disappointed groans. The stadium was so quiet between points that you could hear a pigeon cooing.

Nadal didn’t start well, making errors that led to him losing the first set. Zverev, who is 6-foot-6, is a skilled player, especially on clay courts. He moves well and hits powerful shots with his long legs and arms.

While playing in Paris, Zverev is also dealing with a trial in a Berlin court regarding allegations of domestic abuse by an ex-girlfriend. He won’t be attending the court proceedings.


By Brian Anderson

Hi myself Brian, I am a second-year student at Symbiosis Centre of Management Studies, Noida, pursuing a BBA degree. I am a multi-faceted individual with a passion for various hobbies, including cricket, football, music, and sketching. Beyond my hobbies, I possess a keen interest in literature, particularly fictional books, and channels my creativity into content writing. I am constantly exploring the realms of both business administration and the world of imagination through my diverse pursuits.

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