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regular-article-logo Sunday, 23 June 2024

French Open: 'King of Clay' Rafael Nadal knocked out in first round by Alexander Zverev

It is the first time in his illustrious career that Nadal has been beaten in two consecutive matches on clay courts and the first time he has dropped a match earlier than the fourth round at the French Open

Reuters Paris Published 27.05.24, 10:05 PM
Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal File Photo

Rafael Nadal lost in the first round of the French Open to Alexander Zverev 6-3 7-6(5) 6-3 on Monday in what might turn out to be the 14-time Roland Garros champion's last match at his favourite tournament.

It is the first time in his long and illustrious career that Nadal has been beaten in two consecutive matches on clay courts and the first time he has dropped a match earlier than the fourth round at the French Open. His career record at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament is now 112-4.

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The match was played with the retractable roof shut at Court Philippe Chatrier, and the loud cheers for Nadal from most in the capacity crowd of about 15,000 echoed throughout.

Nadal, who owns 22 major trophies in all, turns 38 on June 3 and he has been dealing with hip and abdominal injuries since January 2023, limiting him to 15 matches and an 8-7 record since the start of last year. His infrequent play dropped his ranking to No. 275 and he was unseeded for the French Open for the first time.

That is why he ended up facing the No. 4-seeded Zverev, the runner-up at the 2020 US Open, a gold medalist at the Tokyo Olympics and the only man to reach the semifinals in Paris each of the past three years.

Nadal has indicated 2024 likely would be his last season before retirement but he said Saturday that he is not 100% sure he won't play again at the French Open. And he reiterated that after Monday's defeat.

His three other losses at Roland Garros came against Robin Soderling in 2010 and against Novak Djokovic in 2015 and 2021.

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