HomeSportsRafael Nadal Bidding to Avoid Early French Open Exit

Rafael Nadal Bidding to Avoid Early French Open Exit

Rafael Nadal will be facing “one of the toughest opponents possible” when he plays Alexander Zverev in the French Open first round, he revealed on Monday.

This year Roland Garros was anticipated to be the farewell event for Rafael Nadal, the 14-time champion. However, Nadal has stated that he cannot definitively confirm if it will be his last appearance

Since January 2023, Nadal has only participated in four tournaments due to a hip injury followed by a muscle tear, which has affected his seeding and placed him at risk of facing tough opponents from the start. Despite these challenges, Nadal has an impressive record at Roland Garros, having only lost three of his 115 matches there.

On the other hand, Alexander Zverev, currently ranked world number four, arrives in Paris as one of the top contenders for the title. His recent victory at the Rome Open bolsters his status as a favorite in the tournament.

Ahead of the match on Court Philippe Chatrier, Nadal said, “Of course on paper it is not the best draw.”

“I play against one of the toughest opponents possible, and at the same time, he came here winning the last event and it’s a Masters 1000.

“It’s not a small one. So what can I do? That’s the draw. Just try to be ready for it.”

The champion turning 38 in a week, has shown flashes of his best form in the clay-court swing but was thrashed 6-1, 6-3 by Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz in the second round of his last outing in Rome.

He holds a 7-3 winning record against Zverev heading into their first encounter since the 2022 French Open semi-finals. In that match, the German had to leave the court in a wheelchair near the end of the second set due to an ankle injury.

“I am not anxious. No, I am focused on trying to play well. That’s it,” said Nadal.

“Maybe I go there and I repeat the disaster of Rome. It’s a possibility, of course. I don’t want to hide that. But in my mind, is do something different and play much better and give myself a chance to play competitively,” he added.

Zverev did not play again in 2022 following that ankle injury but has since climbed back up the rankings in recent months.

The 27-year-old has been widely regarded as a future Grand Slam champion but has yet to secure one of tennis’ four major titles.

However, clay is his strongest surface, and he has reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros in each of the last three years.

This year’s men’s draw appears more open than usual, with questions about Nadal’s fitness and Novak Djokovic experiencing a rocky start to the year.

“I can guarantee you Novak didn’t want to play Rafa in the first round and (Carlos) Alcaraz didn’t want to play, Jannik (Sinner) didn’t want to play him,” said Zverev.

“I don’t want to play him in the first round, but it is how it is. He has been out injured. He hasn’t played a lot of tennis. His ranking is where it is. Of course, it’s not ideal, but at the same time, you know, there is nothing you can do.

“Everybody now is excited for a tough battle and tough first round. I think he’s excited and I’m excited for it.”

French Open organizers were ready to hold a tribute ceremony for Nadal to honor his career, but the Spaniard was hesitant to approve such a celebration.

“We were ready to press the button on it,” tournament director Amelie Mauresmo said.

“But it’s Rafa who manages his timing, we follow what he wants. We wouldn’t want to put him in an uncomfortable position.”

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