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Homechevron_rightSportschevron_rightRafael Nadal faces...

Rafael Nadal faces uncertain future after first round French Open defeat

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal's illustrious French Open career seems to have reached its conclusion on Monday as the 14-time champion suffered a first-round defeat to Alexander Zverev.

The 37-year-old Spaniard, who turns 38 on June 3, was beaten 6-3, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 by world number four Zverev.

This loss marks only his fourth defeat in 116 matches at Roland Garros since his debut in 2005, and it is the first time he has been eliminated in the opening round in Paris, raising questions about his future in tennis.

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

Nadal, who has been plagued by injuries, had only participated in four events since January last year and is now ranked 275th, leaving him unseeded at the French Open. Despite this, he had expressed hope for his future in the sport on the eve of the tournament, stating he was "100% keeping the door open."

In a match reminiscent of the 2022 semi-final where Nadal advanced after Zverev withdrew due to ankle ligament damage, Nadal had opportunities to seize control. He led with a break of serve in both the second and third sets but was unable to maintain his advantage against his in-form 27-year-old opponent.

Under the closed roof of Court Philippe Chatrier, which protected against the heavy rain disrupting the schedule, chants of "Rafa, Rafa" filled the air but eventually fell silent as Nadal lost his opening service game. He failed to convert two break points in the fourth game and, after saving two set points in the ninth game, lost the first set after 50 minutes by netting a forehand.

Nadal broke serve for the first time in the match to lead 3-2 in the second set but couldn't consolidate, relinquishing the break back to Zverev, a three-time semi-finalist. A tense tie-break ensued, with Zverev securing it after extending to 5/3 following a grueling 19-shot rally.

In the third set, with Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, and Iga Swiatek watching from the stands, Nadal broke serve and held for a 2-0 lead. However, Zverev quickly responded, leveling at 2-2. Nadal then saved four break points in a marathon 13-minute fifth game, but the effort proved too much. Zverev took a 4-3 lead and eventually sealed the match when Nadal sent a forehand wide and long.

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TAGS:French OpenRafael Nadal
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