Rafael Nadal exits early in French Open: Zverev triumphs in historic first-round match


In what could potentially be his final appearance at the Philippe Chatrier court, Rafael Nadal, the 14-time French Open champion, was defeated in the first round by the fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev. The match ended with scores of 3-6, 6-7, 3-6, marking only the fourth loss for Nadal in 116 matches at the French Open and his earliest exit in Paris.

A Challenging Match from the Start

Zverev set a demanding pace right from the start, breaking Nadal in his first service game. This early break set the tone for the rest of the match and indicated Zverev’s intent to dominate and avenge his 2022 semifinal loss to Nadal, where he suffered ankle ligament damage that forced him to withdraw.

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Zverev Joins Elite Company

With this victory, Zverev becomes only the third person, joining Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic, to have defeated Nadal at the French Open. The win not only avenges his previous loss but also establishes Zverev as a formidable opponent on clay, capable of overcoming even the most seasoned champions.

Nadal Reflects on Potential Retirement

During his post-match interview, Nadal expressed uncertainty about his future in the sport. “There is a big percentage that I will not be back, but I cannot be 100 percent sure,” Nadal shared, hinting at his possible retirement. Despite the defeat, he remained hopeful about possibly returning for the Olympics and continued to reflect positively on his physical condition.

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Zverev’s Respectful Tribute to Nadal

In a poignant moment after the match, Zverev paid homage to Nadal’s legacy. “I don’t know what to say. Thank you, Rafa, from all of the tennis world. It is such a great honour,” he stated, acknowledging the significant impact Nadal has had on his career and the sport of tennis.

A Spectacle for Tennis Fans

The match was watched by tennis greats like Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, and Iga Swiatek, who were present to witness what might be one of the final chapters in Nadal’s illustrious career. The crowd frequently erupted with chants of “Rafa, Rafa,” especially during moments when Nadal showed glimpses of his renowned fighting spirit.

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While the outcome was not in his favor, Nadal’s performance at the French Open remains a testament to his enduring skill and determination. Fans and fellow players alike will be watching keenly to see if this match indeed marks the end of an era for one of tennis’s greatest players.

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