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French Open LIVE: Rafael Nadal beaten by Alexander Zverev in potential farewell

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Nadal returns to Roland Garros to practice amid doubts over fitness and form

Rafael Nadal lost at the French Open for just the fourth time in 19 years as Alexander Zverev became only the third opponent to beat the great Spaniard at Roland Garros, in what could be the 14-time champion’s final match at the tournament he dominated for almost two decades.

Nadal, who turns 38 next week, forced organisers to cancel a planned farewell ceremony after his surprise announcement that this year’s tournament may not be his last in Paris, but the ‘King of Clay’ admitted there was a “big, big chance” he was playing at the French Open for the final time after recent struggles with injury and fitness.

The tennis icon has ruled the French Open since winning the tournament on his debut in 2005, with a record 14 titles unmatched in the history of the sport. But Nadal, unseeded after returning from injury, was handed a brutal first-round match against the German fourth seed Zverev, one of the contenders for the title after winning in Rome last week.

And the 27-year-old Zverev became just the third player, after Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling, to beat Nadal in his 116 matches at the French Open, silencing Court Philippe-Chatier with a comprehensive straight-sets win. Nadal showed plenty of fight and produced some moments of vintage quality, but Zverev was too strong and resilient in winning 6-3 7-6 6-3 in over three hours.

In an emotional on-court speech, Nadal left the door open to returning to Roland Garros at the Paris Olympics later this summer. “I don’t know if it’s the last time I’ll be here in front of all of you,” he said in front of a packed crowd that included his wife Xisca, baby son Rafael Jr and fellow tennis stars Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz. “Honestly, I am not sure. If it is, then you have been amazing.”

Re-live Nadal’s potential French Open farewell in our live blog, as well as all the reaction from Roland Garros.

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French Open LIVE: Alexander Zverev beats Rafael Nadal

Nadal’s wife Maria Francisca Perello made a rare apperance at one of his matches and was joined by their baby son, Rafael Jr, who watched on holding a mini-racquet.

The stars were also out to watch Nadal’s potential French Open farewell, with Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Iga Swiatek all in the packed players’ box.

They were joined by Spain and Manchester City midfielder Rodri, as well as Nadal’s uncle and former coach, Toni.

(REUTERS)

Jamie Braidwood27 May 2024 18:10

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French Open LIVE: Alexander Zverev beats Rafael Nadal

After an early exit from the French Open, Nadal could turn his attention to Wimbledon and the grass-court season. Nadal won Wimbledon twice, including his iconic 2008 victory against Roger Federer in one of the greatest finals ever played at SW19. Wimbledon starts on 1 July and ends on 14 July.

Or, Nadal could stay on clay and concentrate completely on the Olympics tournament, which will be held at Roland Garros during the Paris Games. The tennis tournament begins on 27 July.

Jamie Braidwood27 May 2024 18:03

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French Open LIVE: Alexander Zverev beats Rafael Nadal

GAME, SET AND MATCH! Zverev 6-3 7-6 6-3 Nadal

“If this was the last time, it was amazing.”

Jamie Braidwood27 May 2024 17:51

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French Open LIVE: Alexander Zverev beats Rafael Nadal

GAME, SET AND MATCH! Zverev 6-3 7-6 6-3 Nadal

A tough day for Nadal. The second-set fightback was sensational but Zverev managed the occasion incredibly well and responded to win the tiebreak. It was so crucial.

This was such a brutal draw for Nadal. Based on that performance, he could have gone far if he had not drawn the fourth seed, who is arguably THE form player on the men’s side.

(Getty Images)

Jamie Braidwood27 May 2024 17:46

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French Open LIVE: Alexander Zverev beats Rafael Nadal

GAME, SET AND MATCH! Zverev 6-3 7-6 6-3 Nadal

Ah my goodness. That was emotional. There will be tears in the stands as Nadal leaves the court to a standing ovation.

Is it for the last time? Nadal left the door open to coming back one last time. The Olympics, which will be played here in two months, is a big goal.

As for after that? He will almost be 39 next year. But, if he is feeling healthy, it sounds as if Nadal will give it a go.

(REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Jamie Braidwood27 May 2024 17:40

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French Open LIVE: Alexander Zverev beats Rafael Nadal

Here’s Nadal, he gets the chance to speak.

“I don’t know if this is farewell, but if it was, it was special to feel the love in the place I love the most.

“I have to congratulate Sacha on victory and winning in Rome. For me, I have been going through a tough two years in terms of injuries.

“I went through the process to get back to Roland Garros, the dream. I was competitive, I had my chances, but it was tough against this opponent.

“It is a big percentage this was my last match at Roland Garros but I cannot say for sure. I am enjoying travelling with my family. My body is feeling good.

“Maybe I two months I say it’s enough, I can’t give more. But I hope to be back on this court for the Olympics. That’s another chance. I hope to be prepared.

“This court, I could not have imagined being here at almost 38 years old, with winning so many times. I could not have dreamed about it. It was beautiful.

“All the people make it special, ever since the first time. All the support, my people, my team. Everybody who helped me. I can’t thank them enough.

“Last, all the fans. It was unforgettable. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope to see you again, but I don’t know.”

(REUTERS)

Jamie Braidwood27 May 2024 17:36

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French Open LIVE: Alexander Zverev beats Rafael Nadal

Zverev closes out victory against Nadal. A stunned silence at Philippe-Chatrier, before applause and recognition to the great Spaniard. He was beaten today, but he put up an incredible fight. Zverev was too good. This was a brutal first-round draw for the 37-year-old.

“I don’t know what to say. Thank you to Rafa, from all the tennis world, it is such a great honour. I have watched Rafa all my childhood and I was lucky to play him. Today is not my moment. It is his moment.”

(REUTERS)

Jamie Braidwood27 May 2024 17:27

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French Open LIVE: Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev latest score

*Nadal 3-6 6-7 3-5 Zverev

A chance for the Spaniard: Nadal responds and produces a flashy overhead to get to 15-30, before a double fault from Zverev! Nadal had a chance on the first break point, putting a backhand long of the basline, but no chance on the second, with Zverev putting a winner clean onto the line.

It’s an impressive hold from Zverev, as he takes another step closer. He sends Nadal running before finding a stunning backhand winner. Too good.

Jamie Braidwood27 May 2024 17:23

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French Open LIVE: Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev latest score

Nadal 3-6 6-7 3-4 Zverev* – Zverev breaks

Zverev marches into a 0-30 lead on Nadal’s serve, before the Spaniard produces a sensational winner down the line against the Zverev smash.

The pressure returns immediately after a double fault brings up two more break points at 14-40.

Nadal guns the forehand and grunts to save the first.

But that’s one of the shots of the match from Zverev: a backhand return hit down the line for a clean winner, finally cracking a hole in Nadal’s serve and volley approach.

It’s met with silence. That could be it.

(Getty Images)

Jamie Braidwood27 May 2024 17:16

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French Open LIVE: Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev latest score

*Nadal 3-6 6-7 3-3 Zverev

What a response from Zverev, putting the pressure back onto Nadal in a flash after holding to love. The German has served so impressively today.

Jamie Braidwood27 May 2024 17:11

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