June 21, 2024
Rafael Nadal

Long in doubt, his body battered by injury, the Spaniard begins his 19th tournament on Paris clay against Alexander Zverev on Monday. It will likely be his last.

The story couldn’t end without a farewell, one more show, a final salvo of “vamos” shouts and, who knows, one last thrill. The giant’s shadow shrinks daily on the court, as his battered body continues to wither away at the age of 38. But Roland-Garros is his citadel, the realm where he built his legend. It’s impossible to imagine taking his final bow without waving goodbye one last time to the land that has made him king 14 times.

After 19 years of an (almost) absolute reign, Rafael Nadal is about to bid farewell to the Parisian tournament. “There is a good chance that it will be my last French Open, but I cannot say that I am 100% certain it will be the last,” he said on Saturday, May 25, in front of 150 journalists who had come to listen.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal attends the press conference at the start of the tournament, May 25, 2024 at Roland-Garros, Paris. GONZALO FUENTES / REUTERS

Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – May 25, 2024
Spain’s Rafael Nadal during the press conference REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

On Monday, when he takes on Germany’s Alexander Zverev (seeded No. 4), Nadal, now ranked 276, won’t be the favorite, for the first time in his career here. But that doesn’t matter. For a while, the Philippe-Chatrier court thought it would never see its lord racket in hand again.

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