Nadal 'not sure' if he has played final French Open match after first-round loss to Zverev

The 14-time champion beaten 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 by German fourth seed but says he hopes to return to Roland Garros for this summer's Olympic Games

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Rafael Nadal suffered a first ever opening-round exit at the French Open as fourth seed Alexander Zverev swept to a straight-sets victory at Roland Garros on Monday.

The 14-time tournament champion arrived in Paris having only played four events since January 2023 after suffering a hip injury and then a muscle tear. That left him unseeded and vulnerable to a difficult opening round at a tournament where he has only lost three of his 115 matches.

And so it turned out after the Spaniard was drawn against world No 4 Zverev who arrived in the French capital as one of the title favourites after winning the Rome Open earlier this month.

Nadal showed flashes of top form again on Court Philippe Chatrier but the 37-year-old ultimately went down fighting in a 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 loss. The 22-time Grand Slam winner was a break of serve up in the second and third sets, only to be pinned back on both occasions by his in-form 27-year-old opponent.

Victory meant Zverev became only the third man to beat Nadal at Roland Garros, after Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling, with the German banishing memories of the serious ankle injury that forced him to quit when the duo last met in the 2022 semi-finals.

Nadal admitted that he was unsure if this was to be his last appearance at a venue where he has reigned supreme since first lifting the Musketeers' Cup in 2005 but did suggest he was keen to return for this summer's Olympic Games in Paris.

“It is difficult for me to talk, I don't know if it's the last time I'll be here in front of all of you,” said Nadal speaking on court. “Honestly, I am not sure. If it is, then you have been amazing. The feelings I have today are difficult to describe in words. It is the place I love the most.

“I have to congratulate Sasha for this great match. I really wish you all the best in this tournament, 2022 was a tough moment for you so you deserve it.

“I have been going through a very tough two years in terms of injuries. I went all through these processes with the dream to be back here. The first round wasn't ideal. I was competitive and I had chances but it was difficult against a player as good as Sasha.

“It's hard to say about the future. I am travelling with my family and I am having fun. The body is feeling better than it did two months ago. Maybe in two months I say it's enough. That is something I don't feel yet. I hope to be back here for the Olympics, that motivates me. I really hope to be well prepared.”

Second seed Jannik Sinner powered past Chris Eubanks 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 as the Australian Open champion kept up his 100 per cent record in Grand Slams this year, which now stands at 8-0.

Sinner is playing only his third tournament since winning the Miami Masters in March, after losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Monte Carlo Masters semi-finals and then withdrawing from the Madrid Open before his quarter-final match.

The 22-year-old, who missed his home Italian Open this month due to an injured hip, moved well and he limited the big-serving American to four aces, converted five of 10 break points and was broken only once himself.

Not surprisingly, the clean-striking Sinner won 10 of the 14 points that lasted nine strokes or more as he looks to maintain the form that saw him lift his first major title, when he fought back from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in Melbourne.

“The hip is good. I'm very happy. I'm glad that my team and myself worked very hard to be back on court as soon as possible,” Sinner said. “For sure, [my] general shape is not at 100 per cent yet, so we try to build every day.”

“I'm obviously happy by what I have achieved in the last months. But our goal is to improve every day. That for me is more important,” added Sinner, who now faces French veteran Richard Gasquet.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, meanwhile, kicked off his campaign with a no-nonsense 7-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Hungarian journeyman Marton Fucsovics under the roof on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

“The beginning was quite tough, he came in with a lot of confidence,” said the Greek ninth seed, who will now take Germany's Daniel Altmaier. “Having to deal with that was not an easy task.

“Getting a hold of that first set was the biggest moment today. I played brilliant tennis towards the end. I'm really happy to assert myself in that sort of way.”

Updated: May 27, 2024, 5:21 PM