All good things must come to an end. For Rafael Nadal, the king of clay, his possible final appearance at the French Open ended early.

The Spaniard lost in straight sets in the first round to Alexander Zverev, the world’s number four. Nadal tried to battle back in the second set but fell 6-3, 7-6, 6-3. Nadal had been rumored to retire coming into the tournament at age 37, but he is turning 38 in a week. However, before he took the court, he opened the door to be back at Roland Garros.

“It’s a big, big change that it’s going to be my last Roland Gorras. But, if I have to tell you it’s my 100% my final Roland Garros? Sorry, but I will not. Because I cannot predict what’s going on.”

However, Nadal has struggled the last two seasons and looks different from the former dominant champion. Injuries, including hip surgery, have ravaged his previous two seasons. In a tune-up before the French Open, Nadal got smashed in Rome, losing in the round of 64 6-1, 6-3 to Hubert Hurkacz, dropping his record to 7-4 coming into the French Open.

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Knowing this could be Nadal’s final time in Paris, tennis stars lined the stands to catch a glimpse of him. Rivals Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz sat in on his match and participated in the raucous ovation as Nadal left the clay. Djokovic, the last remaining ranked player between Nadal and Roger Federer, struggled in the Italian Open as well but won his first two matches in Paris.

Nadal has won the French Open an incredible 14 times, including four straight times from 2005-2008. His last major win came in 2022 in Paris before struggling the last couple of seasons. He started his professional career in 2001 and has been a tennis mainstay for over 20 years, winning two Olympic gold medals and every major tournament.

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