Rafael Nadal gets emotional after losing first round in possible last French Open: 'Not 100% sure'

Rafael Nadal has owned the clay court at Roland Garros throughout his career, but in what could be his final appearance in the French Open, he lost in the first round in straight sets. 

Alexander Zverev, the No. 4-ranked men’s tennis player in the world, took down the Spanish legend that is Nadal, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3, to move on to the second round. 

Nadal, 37, was unsure if he would be competing in the tournament last month as he’s continuously battled injuries while trying to extend his illustrious career, which includes 22 Grand Slam titles. He’s won the French Open 14 times, owning an outstanding career record of 112-4 after the loss to Zverev. 


Zverev is just the third tennis player ever to beat Nadal at Roland Garros, as Novak Djokovic did it twice – both in the final in 2015 and 2021 – and Robin Söderling in 2009 in the fourth round. 

The emotions for Nadal were understandably high after the match, as the crowd roared despite his quick exit. 


“It’s difficult for me to talk,” he said after saluting the crowd in French. “I don’t know if it’s going to be the last time that I’m going to be here in front of all of you. Honestly, I’m not 100% sure. But if it’s the last time, I enjoyed it. 

“The crowd has been amazing during the whole week of preparation and today. Yeah, the feelings I have today are difficult to describe in words. But, for me, it’s so special to feel the love from people in the place I love the most.”

While Zverev dominated the match as a whole, there were vintage “Rafa” moments throughout, including an incredible forehand on the run after a Zverev overhand that should’ve resulted in a point. Instead, Nadal shot it back down the line and the crowd roared with the lefty having a chance to come back as the third set was tied 3-3 at the time. 

Zverev was a gentleman after the match as well, giving Nadal his flowers as he explained the emotions for him going into the match. 

“To be honest, I don’t know what to say,” the 27-year-old Zverev began. “First of all, thank you, Rafa, from all of the tennis world. It’s such a great honor. I’ve watched Rafa play all my childhood, and I was lucky enough to play Rafa when I became professional. I was lucky enough to play him two times on this beautiful court. 

“Today is not my moment – it’s Rafa’s moment.”

Nadal has battled “body limitations,” as he called it, due to knee, feet, ankle, abdomen and wrist problems. They caused him to miss 11 major tournaments throughout his career. He also missed most of 2023 and the beginning of 2024 with a hip injury. 

But Nadal made it a point to want to say goodbye to tennis on the court, and if this is his final French Open, he fulfilled that goal on Monday.  

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