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French Open: Fans pen tributes as Nadal falls in first spherical

In the top, nonetheless, many have been lowered to tears because the 14-time champion slumped to a straight-sets defeat to Alexander Zverev within the first spherical, doubtless signalling the top of the 38-year-old’s Grand Slam journey in Paris.

“Personally, I’m very sad, he’s Rafa, a legend,” Mateo Castro, a 41-year-old French fan, instructed AFP with tears in his eyes. “It’s hard to see him go.”

Michael Lundell, one other Nadal fan who had travelled from Genoa to Paris to look at the match, was additionally in tears.

“I was crying because I don’t think there has ever been another role model like him before in sports,” mentioned the 43-year-old.

“It was a great match, I saw Rafael Nadal at an exceptional level again,” mentioned Gregory Dubus, a 50-year-old French fan.

“I’ve been following Nadal since 2005, his first victory here at Roland Garros, and to see him here, maybe in his last match was exciting.”

Like many followers at Roland Garros on Monday, there was a sense that they have been witnessing the top of an period.

“A player like Rafa, you never want him to retire, he’s a humble player, with an exceptional attitude on the court and in life, nobody wants him to stop,” added Dubus.

Before the beginning of the match, followers had hailed a participant dubbed a “superhero.”

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“You always have to keep the faith in Rafa, he will win,” Hazel, a 28-year-old fan who had flown in from China for a second straight 12 months after being left dissatisfied when Nadal withdrew in 2023, instructed AFP.

“The most important thing is that he stays healthy,” she mentioned, as she proudly confirmed the banners she had made with the colors of Spain, Nadal’s face, and the message “Welcome back my superhero.”

Before Wednesday, Nadal had solely misplaced 3 times in 115 matches on the event since his title-winning debut as a 19-year-old in 2005.

He mentioned on the weekend that there was an opportunity this can be his final French Open however insisted he was nonetheless preserving the door “100 per cent open” on persevering with his profession.

“You see a lot of ‘Thank you Rafa’ shirts. He’s a monument at this tournament,” mentioned 41-year-old Manolo who has come to Europe from the United States to look at Nadal after which Real Madrid play within the Champions League remaining in London this Saturday.

He has seen Nadal win at Wimbledon and the US Open in addition to Paris however admitted Monday’s conflict with world quantity 4 Zverev “would be very difficult.”

“I hope he beats Zverev… Rafa is Rafa,” he mentioned.

“It’s possibly the last time he plays here, so we’re very happy to watch him,” mentioned Alsi, a 40-year-old fan dwelling in Australia.




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