Was this Rafael Nadal’s last Roland-Garros?

Will these emotional greetings as we leave the court be the final image we will keep of Rafael Nadal at Roland-Garros? The Spaniard with 14 triumphs on Parisian clay was pushed out in the first round by world number 4 Alexander Zverev on Monday.

For the first time in 19 participations in the Parisian Grand Slam, “Rafa” was chased out from the start, 6-3, 7-6 (5) and 6-3 in just over three hours by Zverev, one of the candidates to the trophy this year, on the heels of his title at the Masters 1000 in Rome.

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And there is no guarantee that the Spaniard will return.

As this weekend at the pre-tournament press conference, Nadal repeated that there was a “big percentage” chance that this would be his last Roland-Garros, but he added that he did not want to say it “100%”.

“Now my main goal is to play in the Olympics [le tournoi olympique aura lieu à Roland-Garros]“, he made an appointment.

Under the eyes of Djokovic, Alcaraz and Swiatek

Launched into yet another comeback at the start of 2024, but quickly stopped in his tracks in Australia, then returned to battle as best he could in the spring when the clay, his favorite surface, displayed its orange color on the courts, the Spaniard with 22 Grand Slam crowns were overtaken by reality.

He will celebrate his 38th birthday on June 3. And it will not be at Roland-Garros for one of the very rare times in the last 20 years.

Ovation with the approximately 15,000 spectators on the central court standing, when the stadium announcer recalled the 14 years in which the Mallorcan left-hander was crowned on Parisian clay; wild applause at the slightest opportunity, “Rafa” shouted to all the rhythms: the Parisian public celebrated Nadal.

Even Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Swiatek, all three in the middle of a Grand Slam, took their places in the stands.

Faced with one of the fittest players of the moment, wearing a sky blue outfit as opposed to the gray and rainy Parisian sky, which forced him to play with the roof closed, “Rafa” fought as hard as he could, with his current limited means.

There was this renewed energy in the second set, which allowed him to serve to equalize at one set all. In vain. There was this entry break in the third, immediately filled by Zverev.

Zverev’s revenge

There has been improvement compared to Nadal in recent weeks, some good moments too, but not enough consistency to stand up to the great German.


AFP

Even on his hallowed ground, Zverev Mountain has been impassable for Nadal.

Two years after his serious ankle injury suffered in the middle of the semi-final against the Spanish champion, the 26-year-old German took his revenge.


Was this Rafael Nadal's last Roland-Garros?

Photo AFP

In the second round, he will face either the young Frenchman Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard (66e), freshly titled in Lyon, namely the Belgian David Goffin (115e).

Nadal has not won a single trophy since his last coronation at Roland-Garros in 2022, after around fifteen at the time lived in incredible conditions, in particular an anesthetized left foot to reduce the pain caused by the chronic illness from which he has suffered since the age of 18 (Müller-Weiss syndrome).

He has played very little since, as his body has broken down on all sides: less than 30 matches in two years.

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