Nadal ready for emotional French Open farewell

With little chance of adding to his 14 trophies, Rafael Nadal will end his 19-year career at the French Open and leave behind a record and reputation that are unlikely to be surpassed.

The legendary Spaniard, a 22-time Grand Slam winner, took home his maiden championship in 2005 while still a teenager at Roland Garros. He will celebrate his 38th birthday on Monday of next week.

Former world number one Rafael Nadal, who is currently ranked 276th in the world, has only participated in 15 matches since January of last year due to a sad string of medical issues that included a hip injury and a subsequent muscle rupture. These issues have prevented Nadal from competing in 12 Grand Slam events during his career.

His farewell to arms may not last long, as he was drawn to play world number four Alexander Zverev in the first round on Monday. He was not seeded this year.

“I’m going to play the tournament thinking that I can give my all, 100 percent,” explained Nadal after a second-round exit in Rome.

“And if 100 percent is not enough to win a match, I’ll accept that. But I don’t want to step onto court knowing that I have no chance. If there’s a 0.01 percent chance, I want to explore that and give it a go.”

In addition to his 14 Paris victories, Rafael Nadal’s record reads 112 wins against just 3 losses, two of which were against his longtime adversary Novak Djokovic.

He is also regarded with unusually high regard.

An estimated 6,000 spectators attended his first training session on Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros on Monday, with many of them screaming his name.

This week, Stan Wawrinka and Daniil Medvedev, two other Grand Slam winners, trained alongside Rafael Nadal.

Wawrinka said Nadal was as “strong as ever” while Medvedev admitted he was “happy not to be facing” the Spanish star.

Zverev has only beaten Nadal once in six clay-court meetings.

When they met in Paris in 2022, the German was forced to retire from their semi-final after sustaining a serious ankle injury.

“In my mind, I’m going to play peak Rafa Nadal. That’s what I expect him to be. I expect him to be at his absolute best,” said Zverev, who arrives in Paris having won the prestigious Rome Open title.

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