‘King of Clay’ Nadal knocked out by Zverev in possible French Open farewell

Rafael Nadal crashed out of the French Open on Monday after losing his opening-round tie against Alexander Zverev (6-3, 7-6, 6-3), in what may have been his final appearance on the Paris court that saw him triumph a record 14 times.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion showed flashes of his old self as he mounted a spirited challenge on Court Philippe Chatrier, carried by a raucous crowd that included his old rival Novak Djokovic. But his towering opponent was too steep a mountain to climb for the ageing Spaniard, whose career twilight has been blighted by injury.

Nadal had played only four tournaments since January 2023 after undergoing hip surgery and then suffering a muscle tear. He arrived in Paris ranked a lowly 276th in the world, on the back of a straight sets humbling in Rome at the hands of Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz.

Fears of an equally undignified exit at Roland Garros appeared to materialise when Nadal lost his opening serve game to love. But the Spaniard quickly recovered, throwing his heart into a close-fought battle that did justice to his extraordinary career.

Earlier on, there was a deafening roar as the players walked onto court and the master of ceremonies gave a rundown of Nadal’s 14 French Open titles, starting with his maiden win in 2005 as a long-haired, sleeveless teenager.

Tellingly, Zverev had hit 15 winners to Nadal's five.

Read more on FRANCE 24 English

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