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Rafael Nadal Lost In First Round Of French Open In History

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Rafael Nadal loses in first round of French Open

Rafael Nadal lost his chance to win the French Open title in the first round. When he was beaten by Alexander Zverev on Monday afternoon. Zverev won the match easily, without dropping a set.

People were hoping Rafael Nadal would have another amazing run at the French Open. But Alexander Zverev, who was seeded No. 4, beat him. Zverev won the match in three sets, taking 3 hours and 5 minutes.

After losing, Rafael Nadal said there’s a big chance this might be his last French Open. But he plans to come back to play in the Olympics at Roland Garros later this summer.

Rafael Nadal shared, I’m not sure what will happen in the coming months. I need time to think things through. Originally, I was prepared mentally until the Olympics. But now, I need to assess how I feel on various levels my motivation, physical condition. Whether it makes sense to continue playing tennis.

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He also mentioned that playing at Wimbledon seems unlikely, as he’s more inclined to stick to playing on clay courts.

My main focus right now is the Olympics, he explained. That’s my priority. It’s happening here, so I want to get ready properly, stay healthy, and be well prepared. Then we’ll see how it goes.

Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev before starting match.
Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev before starting match.

On Monday in Paris, there was a strong sense of nostalgia. Rafael Nadal, who is 37 years old, has dominated this tournament for so long. He’s won an incredible 14 singles titles here, adding up to 22 Grand Slam titles overall.

There’s even a statue honoring him at this venue. On Court Philippe Chatrier, packed with his devoted fans, they were all hoping for one more magical performance. Every time Rafael Nadal scored a point, the crowd erupted with excitement, but unfortunately, it didn’t happen this time.

It felt like a goodbye to a cherished figure of this place, with Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, and Iga Swiatek among the crowd. Which possibly witnessing Rafael Nadal’s last French Open match.

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Instead of witnessing another Nadal victory, which he’s been incredibly successful at with a record of 112 wins and 3 losses at Roland Garros. They watched Alexander Zverev deliver an outstanding performance. Zverev hit 44 winners compared to Nadal’s 34, showcasing his skill on the court.

Zverev, who is 27 years old, joins an exclusive club as only the third man to defeat Nadal at Roland Garros. The other members are Robin Soderling in 2009 and Djokovic in 2015 and 2021. While Nadal showed flashes of his former self with powerful forehands, Zverev’s consistent and precise play ultimately secured his victory.

Rafael Nadal wasn’t expected to win the match, especially after facing a challenging 15 months. He had to pull out of the 2023 French Open last May due to a hip injury that needed surgery. Which causing him to miss the rest of the year.

When he returned to play at Brisbane in January, he faced another setback with a muscle injury. Later on, he disclosed he was also dealing with abdominal issues.

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Following an exhibition match against Alcaraz in March, Nadal skipped Monte Carlo but returned to competition in Barcelona. He made it to the second round there, reached the round of 16 in Madrid, and then suffered a second round loss in Rome. This left him with a 2024 clay-court record of 5 wins and 3 losses heading into the French Open.

There was a sense that this could be Nadal’s final appearance at Roland Garros. Especially since he had previously hinted that 2024 might be his last year on the tour.

However, during his pre-French Open press conference on Saturday. He surprised everyone by saying, There’s a big chance that this could be my last Roland Garros. But I can’t say for sure it’s 100% my last one, because I can’t predict the future.

This statement led tournament organizers to hold off on any planned tributes to Nadal, just in case he decides to return next year.

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Throughout all this time, Rafael Nadal remained in the draw, not seeded. By aiming to add to his incredible collection of 14 French Open men’s singles titles and 22 Grand Slam victories. His path was tough from the start, facing Zverev.

Zverev came into Roland Garros as one of the top contenders, having recently won the Rome Masters on May 19. However, leading up to the tournament, much of the focus on him revolved around his upcoming court case in Germany. As scheduled to begin on May 31, regarding allegations of domestic abuse. He has denied these allegations and will not be present at the hearing.

Their meeting on Monday at Philippe Chatrier was their first encounter since the 2022 French Open semifinal. The match was intense and closely contested, but unfortunately, Zverev had to retire at the end of the second set due to a severe ankle injury.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal

Zverev aimed to redeem himself from their last encounter, beginning the match with a strong start by pressuring Nadal’s serve and successfully breaking him in the opening game. While Nadal gradually found his footing, Zverev’s serving remained solid, and his forehand was particularly effective.

Despite Nadal’s efforts to break back when trailing 2-1, Zverev saved both break points. Despite glimpses of Nadal’s former dominance, Zverev maintained control, capitalizing on any errors from Nadal and securing another break to clinch the first set 6-3.

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Nadal still had the crowd fully behind him; every time he scored a point with his powerful forehand, the cheers were as loud as any we’ll hear during the tournament. However, Zverev stayed focused at the beginning of the second set, winning his service game without dropping a point.

The momentum seemed to be in favor of the German player, but in the fourth game, Nadal seized an opportunity, hitting a fantastic forehand shot and celebrating with his signature hop, jump, and fist pump all at once. The crowd erupted in cheers, and Nadal carried that energy into the next game, where he managed to break Zverev’s serve for the first time in the match.

However, Zverev fought back, breaking Nadal’s serve to level the set at 5-5. He then held firm during the tiebreak, eventually winning the second set 7-6 (5).

By this point, Zverev’s first serve was impressively accurate, landing at 81%. However, Nadal managed to create three break points in the second game of the third set, and he converted the third one with a brilliant forehand down the line.

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The crowd erupted with excitement, accompanied by another lively trumpet performance from Nadal’s dedicated brass band fans. But Zverev quickly dashed any hopes of a Nadal comeback by breaking him back in the next game and then breaking again in the seventh.

Zverev held his own serve to take a commanding 5-3 lead, thanks to a fantastic backhand passing shot that even earned applause from Nadal himself. With Nadal needing to serve to stay in the match, Zverev capitalized on the pressure, earning two match points by pushing Nadal around the court. A loose forehand from Nadal sealed the victory for Zverev.

I was prepared to improve my game and gain confidence with each passing day, Nadal reflected afterwards. But unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to have those competitive days because I faced a very strong opponent. Perhaps today I needed him to not play as well as he did.

I believe I performed at a good level overall, especially compared to how I was playing in the weeks leading up to this match. So, I’m pleased with that. Of course, it’s disappointing to lose, but I’m glad that I finished the match feeling physically well. It was a tough battle out there, and I felt ready for a little more.

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After the match, Zverev showed his respect for Rafael Nadal. Thank you, Rafa, on behalf of the entire tennis world. It’s a tremendous honor, Zverev expressed. I grew up watching Rafa play, and now as a professional, I had the chance to compete against him. I’m at a loss for words. This isn’t about me it’s Rafa’s moment.

Nadal remains optimistic about another chance at Roland Garros when Paris 2024 begins.

If I continue enjoying what I do and feel competitive and healthy enough to keep going, I’d like to continue for some time, Nadal explained. I’m not sure for how long, but I want to keep going because my family enjoys it, I enjoy it, and I want to give myself a bit more time to see if I can improve and stay fit. Then, I’ll make a decision.

Let’s wait until after the Olympics, give me two months, and then we’ll see if I can continue or if I decide it’s time to stop. We’ll see.

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