Nadal Stuns Zverev in Potential French Open Farewell

Nadal Stuns Zverev in Potential French Open Farewell

by Reuters News Service
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Rafa Nadal experienced his earliest exit at the French Open on Monday, succumbing to a 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 defeat by fourth seed Alexander Zverev, leaving fans pondering whether the 14-time champion will return to the Grand Slam event he has dominated for two decades.

The 22-time major champion, who first claimed the Musketeers’ Cup in 2005 and last lifted the trophy in 2022 before being sidelined by a serious hip injury, had hinted that this year might mark his final appearance on the tour.

Despite returning to the tournament after skipping it in 2023 and refraining from confirming any farewells ahead of his opener, Nadal showcased glimpses of his formidable form on Court Philippe Chatrier. However, the 37-year-old ultimately succumbed to defeat.

“I’m not 100% sure if it’s the last time, but I enjoyed it,” Nadal expressed, as the crowd rose to their feet in appreciation. “The feelings today are difficult to describe with words, but it’s special to feel the love in the place I love the most.”

Zverev’s victory marked only the third time Nadal has been defeated at Roland Garros, joining Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling. The German player, who also overcame memories of a previous retirement due to an ankle injury when facing Nadal in the 2022 semi-finals, expressed gratitude to his opponent.

“I don’t know what to say… thank you Rafa from all of the tennis world,” Zverev remarked. “I’ve watched Rafa play all my childhood, and I was lucky enough to play him twice on this beautiful court.”

Nadal encountered difficulties early on, being broken by Zverev in the opening game and losing the first set under unfavourable conditions with the roof closed due to earlier heavy rain. Despite a positive start in the second set, Nadal was unable to maintain momentum, and Zverev ultimately secured victory in a tense tiebreak.

Although Nadal briefly surged to a 2-0 lead in the third set, Zverev quickly responded, ultimately sealing the match in a hard-fought battle. The victory for Zverev could serve as a significant milestone in his quest for a maiden Grand Slam title.

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