• Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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14-time champion Nadal loses in likely French Open farewell

This was Nadal’s first-ever opening-round defeat in Paris, raising questions about his future in the sport. (Photo: Getty Images)

By: Vivek Mishra

Rafael Nadal’s French Open career likely ended on Monday as the 14-time champion lost in the first round to Alexander Zverev.

Nadal, who turns 38 on June 3, was defeated 6-3, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 by world number four Zverev. This marks only his fourth loss in 116 matches at Roland Garros since his debut win in 2005.

This was Nadal’s first-ever opening-round defeat in Paris, raising questions about his future in the sport.

“I don’t know if this is the last time I will be here, I am not 100 per cent sure but if it is then I wanted to enjoy it,” said Nadal. “The feelings today are difficult to describe in words.”

Injuries have plagued Nadal, limiting him to just four events since January last year. Now ranked 275 and unseeded in Paris, he had insisted before the tournament that he was “100% keeping the door open” on his future in tennis, where he has won 22 Grand Slam titles.

In a repeat of the 2022 semi-final, which Nadal won when Zverev retired with an ankle injury, the Spaniard had his chances. He was up a break in the second and third sets but was pulled back each time by Zverev.

Chants of “Rafa, Rafa” echoed under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier, which was closed due to torrential rain. They fell silent when Nadal was broken in his first service game and missed two break points in the fourth game.

Nadal saved two set points in the ninth game but lost the opener after 50 minutes with a forehand into the net, marking only the fourth opening set he has lost at Roland Garros.

Nadal broke to lead 3-2 in the second set but couldn’t hold the advantage, losing the break as he served for the set. Zverev won the tie-breaker after a 19-shot rally.

In the third set, Nadal broke and held for 2-0, but Zverev leveled at 2-2. Nadal saved four break points in a 13-minute fifth game but was soon down 4-3. The match ended when Nadal hit a forehand wide and long.

(AFP)

 

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