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Nadal bidding to avoid early French Open exit

Messenger Sports

Published: 09:58, 27 May 2024

Nadal bidding to avoid early French Open exit

Rafael Nadal. Photo: Collected

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 percent" 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 number four 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 semi-finals, 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 do something different and play much better and give myself a chance to play competitive."

Messenger/Disha

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