Alexander Zverev defeat’s Rafael Nadal in the French Open

Rafael Nadal, a 14-time winner, tried to storm the match in the middle of it, but Alexander Zverev prevailed 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3 in their first-round Roland Garros battle

(Tennis news) Nadal showed flashes of his classic best tennis, particularly when he executed his signature forehand pass. After three hours and five minutes, though, Zverev’s powerful serve, forceful forehand, and composure under duress proved to be too much to overcome.

“To be honest I don’t know what to say. First of all, thank you Rafa from all of the tennis world. It’s such a great honour,” Zverev said in his on-court interview. “I’ve watched Rafa play all my childhood and I was lucky enough to play Rafa when I became a professional. I was lucky enough to play him two times on this beautiful court. I don’t know what to say. Today is not my moment, it’s Rafa’s moment, so thank you.”

As soon as the draw was made, the talk of Roland Garros was this tantalising showdown, a rematch of their semi-final in Paris two years ago, when they played for more than three hours before Zverev was forced to retire due to a devastating ankle injury.

There was so much excitement for the match that Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and WTA No. 1 Iga Swiatek all sat in the stands to take in the action. The encounter was very tightly contested for a straight-sets match, but for every moment in which Nadal seemed to seize the momentum — rallying the raucuous crowd fully behind him — Zverev found an answer to retake control. 

The German became just the third player to defeat Nadal at Roland Garros, joining Djokovic (2) and Robin Soderling. The Spaniard is now 112-4 at the clay-court major after suffering just the third first-round loss at a Slam of his illustrious career. After Zverev conducted his on-court interview, Nadal was given the microphone to speak to the Parisian crowd.

“It’s difficult for me to talk. 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,” Nadal said. “I am not 100 per cent sure, but if it’s the last time, I enjoyed it. The crowd has been amazing during the whole week of preparation and the feelings that I have today are difficult to describe in words. But for me it’s so special to feel the love of the people the way that I felt in the place that I love the most.”

Nadal has struggled with injuries over the past couple of years and tallied a 5-3 record this clay-court season entering Roland Garros, below his lofty standards. He at times played better tennis against Zverev than he did throughout all of 2024, but it was not enough against the No. 4 player in the PIF ATP Rankings. 

Zverev’s aggressive play set the tone in the first set. The two-time Nitto ATP Finals champion took the action to his opponent, hitting 15 winners compared to five for Nadal in the opener.

When the 22-time major champion Nadal was in position to crank up his forehand in neutral rallies, Zverev did not panic and did well to neutralise Nadal’s typically effective ad-court pattern with his steady two-handed backhand.

Nadal faced two break points early in the second set to fall into a deep deficit under the Court Philippe-Chatrier roof. But after digging out of trouble, he conjured memories of his very best tennis to claim a service break. The 37-year-old was all over the court, earning roars of approval from the raucuous crowd with his jaw-dropping shotmaking. He even pulled out a leaping fist pump, which fans are used to seeing in the most critical moments at the end of majors.

Several times during the match, Nadal hit sizzling forehand passing shots and gave the crowd massive fist pumps to try to work his way back into the match. But a poor drop shot at the end of the second-set tie-break proved critical and once Zverev took a two-sets lead, it felt a big mountain to climb for Nadal.

After Nadal missed a final shot on match point, Zverev gave a muted celebration out of respect for the 22-time major champion. They enjoyed a warm greeting at the net. 

According to Infosys Stats, both men won 48 per cent of their second-serve points, but Zverev won 72 per cent of his first-serve points compared to 58 per cent for Nadal, and that made the difference.

Following the on-court interviews, an emotional Nadal took in the surroundings on Court Philippe-Chatrier, thanking the crowd as he walked off the court where he has been most dominant, potentially for the final time.

For Zverev, the victory continues his rich run of form on the heels of his title at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome. It was his fourth Lexus ATP Head2Head victory against Nadal (Nadal leads 7-4).

The fourth seed will next face Lyon champion Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard or former World No. 7 David Goffin.

Also read: Rafael Nadal will play Alexander Zverev in the French Open


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