Rafael Nadal’s Unexpected First-Round Exit at Roland Garros 2024 to Alexander Zverev

Rafael Nadal, the 14-time champion, fell to Alexander Zverev in a stunning first-round upset at Roland Garros.

Was this the last time the 14-time champion appeared on the battlefield? Some first-round matches have the intensity of a championship match, such as Rafael Nadal vs. Alexander Zverev. It might have made sense for Nadal, the guy who dropped the opening point, to lose the last one as well.

Rafael Nadal’s Unexpected First-Round Exit at Roland Garros 2024 to Alexander Zverev

Both players displayed outstanding tennis between three hours and five minutes after Nadal’s forehand fault and his drop shot miss. However, Zverev’s served and returned with a bombardment of steady, potent forehands and backhands outpaced Nadal’s erratic surges.

In the end, Nadal was unable to find the energy required to match, much less overcome, Zverev—the Rome winner, three-time semifinals at Roland Garros, and possibly even the tournament favorite. His triumph over the living great, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, only strengthened his reputation.

“I express my gratitude to Rafa on behalf of the entire tennis community,” Zverev stated in a brief post-match interview. “What an amazing honor,” Then, for the first time that day, he gave up the stage. “This is Rafa’s moment, not mine.”

Naturally, there was a reason this was a first-round match: although Rafael Nadal has won 14 titles on the terre battue, he is 37 years old and does not look like the man that sold out this stadium year after year. It only made his supporters yell more loudly. Screams that were guttural showered down in every tongue. One particular fan of Spain cursed in English when his own tongue would not do.

The situation had the sense of a soccer match or a prize fight, analogies that are occasionally used to characterize tennis matches but are rarely true. That was not the case on Monday, when raucous Rafa support erupted from every square inch of Court Philippe-Chatrier, with celebrities like Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, and renowned Nadal fan Iga Swiatek in attendance. The powerful volume was further enhanced by the closed roof.

Regarding whether he will participate in this tournament once more, Rafael Nadal stated afterward, “I am not 100 percent sure, but if it is the last time, I enjoy it.” (He did admit that the Olympics, which will take place at Roland Garros, are quickly approaching.)

Nadal, meanwhile, was ranked 275th and hence at the mercy of the draw gods, who were enraged enough to call Zverev to the other side of the net. From the beginning, the German was merciless, winning 15 games and turning two break points in a 54-minute, 6-3 set that didn’t feel nearly that close.

Nadal was compelled by the dynamic to strike harder, which relaxed both the audience and him. Rafa began to play some of his best tennis in the second set, especially during a run of games in which he held serve, broke Zverev for 3-2, and rallied from a 15-40 deficit.

The throwback music persisted until Nadal’s serve to square the match, at which moment he broke for the first time in his life. A tiebreaker was an appropriate way to end the compelling set and, more likely than not for Rafael Nadal, the match.

Zverev gained the upper hand at 3-3 after exchanging mini-breaks, winning with a quick approach. Rafa then gave an encore while behind 5-3, a stunning curving forehand cross-court pass that sparked the second-largest cheer of the day. The only thing that surpassed the intensity was the pre-match declaration from each of Nadal’s 14 championship-winning seasons.

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Rafael Nadal’s Unexpected First-Round Exit at Roland Garros 2024 to Alexander Zverev

But Nadal’s music ended two points later. Even though he was down two sets, he remained unflappable and even declared that Roland Garros was the one tournament he would “give everything and die” for. However, Zverev was just the superior player. Against 30 unforced errors, he concluded with 44 wins against two service breaks (Nadal had two). Nadal’s stats were 34 to 30.

Zverev ended the incredible day with another break, taking the lead for sure at 3-3 in the third. “I must congratulate Sascha on this fantastic match and his triumph in Rome,” remarked Rafael Nadal. “I sincerely hope the rest of this tournament goes well for you.”

Nadal has only ever lost four times at Roland Garros. It’s unclear if he’ll want to take the chance on another, but even before today, it was obvious that he would enjoy this competition, regardless of how long or short it lasted.

“I simply want to express my gratitude for all of the support I got from the players, the tournament directors, the players’ community, and the tennis and sports world, right?” On Saturday, Nadal stated. “I’m thrilled that I may have left a lasting impact there. not limited to tennis. Most likely a human individual, isn’t that right? Therefore, in the end, that matters more than any outcome. That’s what he said again today.

“Seize the moment,” Rafael Nadal told reporters after the match. “I am at peace with myself if this is the last time I play here,” the player said with a smile. I spent nearly twenty years trying to prepare for this competition. And I’ve been working and going through what has to be the hardest process of my tennis career for the past two years, with the hope of returning here, right? “At least I did,” Sure, I was defeated, but that’s just part of the game.

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