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Nadal suffers early exit at French Open

PARIS: In a shocking turn of events, Rafael Nadal faced his earliest exit at the French Open on Monday, succumbing to a 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 defeat by fourth seed Alexander Zverev in the first round. This loss has left fans and the tennis world questioning whether the 14-time French Open champion will return to the tournament he has dominated for nearly two decades.

Nadal, a 22-time Grand Slam winner, first triumphed at Roland Garros in 2005 and last lifted the trophy in 2022. However, a serious hip injury that followed has cast a shadow over his illustrious career. Speculation about Nadal’s future has been rife, particularly after he hinted that this year might be his last on the tour.

Returning to Roland Garros after missing the 2023 tournament, Nadal displayed moments of brilliance on Court Philippe Chatrier but ultimately fell short against the resilient Zverev. Despite the defeat, Nadal expressed gratitude and hinted at the uncertainty of his retirement. “I’m not 100% sure if it’s the last time, but I enjoyed it. The crowd were amazing during the whole week of preparation and today,” Nadal shared, receiving a standing ovation from the audience.

“The feelings today are difficult to describe with words, but it’s special to feel the love in the place I love the most,” he continued. “I enjoy playing a lot and travelling with the family. The body is feeling better than two months ago. Maybe in two months, I say it’s enough. But it’s something I don’t feel yet.”

Zverev’s victory marks him as only the third man to defeat Nadal at Roland Garros, joining the ranks of Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling. The win also served as redemption for Zverev, who had to retire due to an ankle injury during their 2022 semi-final clash.

Nadal’s loss began with a break by the in-form Zverev in the opening game, and despite a valiant effort, he was unable to recover fully. Unfavorable conditions, including a closed roof due to rain, compounded his challenges. After dropping the first set, Nadal fought back in the second, energizing the crowd with vintage plays and a temporary lead. Yet, Zverev’s resilience saw him saving breakpoints and securing the set in a tense tiebreak.(Reuters)

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