a 2024 edition awaiting a swan song from Nadal

The 2024 edition of Roland-Garros opened in Paris this Sunday, May 26. Main issue in the eyes of the general public: the return to Porte d’Auteuil of the master of the place, Rafael Nadal, two years after his last coronation. One last outing to Roland for a swan song? Maybe. He will still have to get past Alexander Zverev in the first round.

Published on: 05/26/2024 – 6:23 p.m.

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Are we living the last chapter of Rafael Nadal’s epic on the land of his greatest exploits? “ There is a big, big chance that this will be my last Roland-Garros “, declared the Spaniard with fourteen triumphs on Parisian clay on Saturday, on the eve of the 2024 edition. ” But I wouldn’t say I’m 100% sure. “, he added, in order to build suspense.

« I went through a long recovery process, with a very difficult injury, almost two years of suffering. Now I feel better than I did a month and a half ago. So in a way I don’t want to close the door 100% », Explained the Majorcan with 22 Grand Slam coronations, almost 38 years old and most often stopped since the summer of 2022, due to repeated injuries.

« I don’t want to cause any big confusion, but, sorry, I love what I do and I feel competitive in trainingNadal almost apologized. Probably not yet in official matches. But, in training, I can tell you that I am able to compete with almost everyone. And I don’t feel much worse than the others, that gives me hope ».

A tough entry, resembling revenge

The result of his entry into the running will probably set a trend for the future. Because on Monday afternoon, Nadal found Alexander Zverev, world number four and one of the fittest players of the moment, for the first round. Also the last man to worry the Spanish giant on Parisian clay in the semi-finals in 2022, before the German seriously injured his ankle during the match and was taken out in a wheelchair.

The two men have not faced each other since that fateful June 1, 2022. And since then, the situation has radically changed. Zverev, 27, arrives full of certainties, in particular the title at the Masters 1000 in Rome, his last preparation tournament. Nadal, on the contrary, will be 38 years old on June 3, lost in the second round in Rome, a “ disaster » according to his term, is ranked 275th in the world and was not protected during the draw.

Even on his beloved land, the challenge is monumental for Nadal, who has not won a single trophy since his last coronation at Porte d’Auteuil in 2022, after around fifteen crossings in incredible conditions (left foot anesthetized to contain the pain caused by the chronic illness from which he has suffered since the age of 18, Müller-Weiss syndrome).

But if his speech is less pessimistic than a few weeks ago, it is because “Rafa” has seen improvement in training in recent days, he who arrived in Paris on Monday and has multiplied on the courts of the Porte d’Auteuil since then. Saturday morning, it was the turn of world number 13 Holger Rune to respond, this time on the Suzanne-Lenglen court.

I feel free to be able to play thinking about the ball and that’s it

« My body is evolving well, better than I hoped, a month and a half ago, I’m not training with too much pain. If it lasts, I can continue to be competitive. But maybe in four days, a month, or two, I’ll get hurt again and feel that it’s no longer worth it and that I should stop, like I felt a month and a half ago “, he qualified.

So what can we hope for against Zverev from the former world number 1, who has not played a match in three winning sets for almost a year and a half and has not been beaten by a top 5 player since the end of 2022? “ This is the first week (since his return) that I feel free to be able to play thinking about the ball and that’s it, without being limited, without thinking about what movement I can do or not. It’s very light luggage. A priori, this is very insufficient “, he believes.

More “ if, deep in my heart, I didn’t have any hope of succeeding here and doing great things, I wouldn’t be here “, admits “Rafa”. After all, for him, Paris is magical.


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