Nadal Bidding To Avoid Early French Open Exit

Nadal Bidding To Avoid Early French Open Exit

Rafael Nadal admits he will be facing “one of the toughest opponents possible” when he plays Alexander Zverev in the French Open first round on Monday.

This year’s event was expected to be the 14-time champion’s farewell to Roland Garros, but he has since insisted he could not confirm “100 per cent” it would be his last appearance.
Nadal has only played four tournaments since January 2023 after suffering a hip injury and then a muscle tear.

That left him unseeded for the draw and vulnerable to a difficult opening round at a tournament where he has only lost three of his 115 matches.
World No 4 Zverev arrives in Paris as one of the favourites for the title after winning the Rome Open earlier this month.

“Of course on paper it is not the best draw,” Nadal said ahead of the match on Court Philippe Chatrier.

“I play against one of the toughest opponents possible, and at the same time, he came here winning the last event and it’s a Masters 1000.

“It’s not a small one. So what can I do? That’s the draw. Just try to be ready for it.”
Nadal, who turns 38 in a week’s time, has shown flashes of his best form in the clay-court swing, but was thrashed 6-1, 6-3 by Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz in the second round of his last outing in Rome.

He boasts a 7-3 winning record over Zverev ahead of their first meeting since the 2022 French Open semifinals, when the German left the court in a wheelchair near the end of the second set after injuring his ankle.

“I am not anxious. No, I am focused on trying to play well. That’s it,” said Nadal.
“Maybe I go there and I repeat the disaster of Rome. It’s a possibility, of course. I don’t want to hide that.

“But in my mind, is to do something different and play much better and give myself a chance to play competitive.”

Zverev did not play again in 2022 after that ankle injury but has climbed the rankings again in recent months.

The 27-year-old has long been touted as a future Grand Slam champion but remains without one of tennis’ four biggest titles.

Clay is his strongest surface, though, and he has reached the semifinals in each of the last three years at Roland Garros.

The men’s draw looks far more open than usual, with doubts surrounding Nadal’s fitness and Novak Djokovic having endured a turbulent start to the year.

“I can guarantee you Novak didn’t want to play Rafa in the first round and (Carlos) Alcaraz didn’t want to play, Jannik (Sinner) didn’t want to play him,” admitted Zverev.

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