May 28, 2024

Nadal was beaten 6-3 7-6(5) 6-3 by Zverev, who will now be seen as one of the favourites to lift the French Open title after an impressive performance against the ‘King of Clay’.


Zverev will now join a list of just four players who have beaten Nadal on Court Philippe Chatrier, but he conceded his emotions were mixed as he tried to comprehend the magnitude of the match he had been a part of.


Nadal refused to confirm that had been his final match at the French Open, where he is a 14-time champion, but there is a good chance that the last entry on his Roland Garros scoresheet will be a defeat against Zverev.


“It was special, it was definitely special,” admitted Zverev as he spoke to the media after a match that will be remembered one of the most memorable in his career.


“I didn’t know how to act in certain moments, especially at the end of the match.


“There is uncertainty over whether he wants to come back and play next year. He’s definitely going to be back for the Olympics, but just for Roland Garros, there is uncertainty.


“I would say the improvement he has made over the last few months and the difference in level he played today was unbelievable.


“I really felt like it was a very good match and if he stays healthy, he will continue to play better. Then he will be seeded again and that makes it a lot easier for him, for sure.”


Nadal was persuaded afterwards by tournament director Amelie Mauresmo to say a few words to the crowd.


“I don’t know if it’s gonna be my last time here in front of you, not 100 per cent – but if it is I enjoyed it,” he said.


“The feelings that I have are difficult to describe, it’s so special to feel the love of the people in the place I love the most.


“I have been going through a very tough two years in terms of injuries and I went through a process with the dream of being back at Roland Garros.


“The first round was not the dream one but I was competitive and had my chances. It’s difficult to say what’s going on in the future, a big percentage that I won’t be back but I can say 100 per cent I am enjoying playing and having fun.


“Maybe in two months I’ll say it’s enough, but it’s something I don’t want yet and I want to be back on this court for the Olympics.


“I never could imagine when I was a kid that I would be here at almost 38 with all the success I had here. I really hope to see you again – but I don’t know.”


Meanwhile, tennis legend Boris Becker gave his verdict on Zverev’s performance as he suggested Nadal should be optimistic about what is to come in the final months of his career after an improved display against the German.


“Sascha was the better player right from the start,” Becker told Eurosport. “He broke Nadal’s first service game straight away and never let up. For me, the second set was decisive when Nadal was ahead and then lost the tie-break. It was clear then that Zverev would be the winner.


“I believe that Rafa will still play the Olympics at Roland Garros, but I don’t think he’ll play the French Open again in 2025.


“Of course, he has emotions and probably had a sleepless night because he didn’t know whether it would be the last time. He wanted to say goodbye well. Then his opponent was Zverev, against whom he can lose even on a good day. That’s why it was emotionally very difficult for Nadal.


“Sascha started with a deep return and then worked his way into the rallies. The longer the rallies became over the course of the match, the better Zverev got. That’s unusual against Nadal – and he’s the king of Paris. He dominates the baseline and the centre of the court because he can then send his opponent running. It was the other way round today due to Zverev’s positioning.”

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