Nadal probably will never return to French Open after first round defeat

There's a big percentage I will not be back here but I am not 100% sure. I hope to be back on this court for the Olympics, that motivates me, he said

By Reuters

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Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd as he leaves the court after losing his first round matc against Alexander Zverev. — AFP
Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd as he leaves the court after losing his first round matc against Alexander Zverev. — AFP

Published: Mon 27 May 2024, 10:44 PM

Last updated: Mon 27 May 2024, 10:45 PM

Rafael Nadal exited what could be his last French Open to an outpouring of love and support with a first-round defeat by Alexander Zverev, wishing to be back at Roland Garros for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

"I hope to see you again, but I don't know," Nadal told an ecstatic crowd after his straight-sets loss on Monday.


"There's a big percentage I will not be back here but I am not 100% sure. I hope to be back on this court for the Olympics, that motivates me."

It will the third time since his debut at Roland Garros in 2005, that Nadal, whose body has been martyred by 23 years of professional tennis and who left the tournament with a crushed foot after his record-improving 14th title two years ago, does not get to celebrate his June 3 birthday in Paris.


Rafael Nadal's wife Maria Francisca Perello and their son in the stands after his match. — Reuters
Rafael Nadal's wife Maria Francisca Perello and their son in the stands after his match. — Reuters

The French, who tend to arrive on court Philippe Chatrier fashionably late on the back of a long lunch, skipped coffee and digestif to fill the arena before the king, racquet in hand as usual, stepped onto the court to deafening roars.

Spain's Nadal stuck to his routine, avoiding the lines and crossing them with his right foot, sprinting to the baseline during warm-up and positioning his two bottles diagonally aimed at the court.

On a rainy day in Paris, organisers closed the roof, adding to the intimacy of the moment.

On a court he knows like no one else, Nadal struggled to find his mark early on, netting a routine drop shot and serving a double fault to give Zverev the opening game.

The German, who after winning the Rome Masters was the worst possible draw for Nadal, kept his foot on the gas pedal to take the first set even if the Mallorcan showed glimpses of his best with a couple of spinning forehand winners down the line.

As soon as Zverev eased the pressure, however, Nadal converted his first break point to take a 3-2 lead in the second set.

Novak Djokovic was also at the stadium to watch Nadal's match. — X
Novak Djokovic was also at the stadium to watch Nadal's match. — X

"Rafa! Rafa!" went the crowd, again, as world number ones Iga Swiatek and Novak Djokovic, as well as fellow Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, joined the party.

Nadal served for the set but Zverev levelled and forced a tiebreak, which he comfortably won.

There was another break for Nadal in the third set, and some 'I-can-still-do-it' fist pumps after a few jaw-dropping winners, but two years after Zverev left their semifinal match on a wheelchair with a broken foot, the German was too good this time.

Meanwhile, Coco Gauff made a strong start, dispatching German Julia Avdeeva 6-1 6-1 for her 50th Grand Slam match victory.

The 20-year-old American, who won the US Open last year to break her Grand Slam duck, is looking to claim her first French Open title after losing the 2022 final in Paris.

Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner started his title tilt with a confident 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win over Wimbledon quarterfinalist Christopher Eubanks.

The Italian second seed, who withdrew from the Madrid Open and missed the Rome Open with a hip injury, set up a second-round meeting with French veteran Richard Gasquet.

"The hip is good, I'm very happy," said Sinner.

Former finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Marton Fucsovics of Hungary 7-6 (9/7), 6-4, 6-1.

Marketa Vondrousova, also a former Roland Garros runner-up and the reigning Wimbledon champion, eased past Rebeka Masarova of Spain in straight sets.

Tunisian eighth seed Ons Jabeur booked her place in round two with a comfortable win over US wildcard Sachia Vickery.

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