June 14, 2024
Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal bids goodbye to spectators at Campo Centrale after bowing out of the Italian Open with a second-round defeat against Hubert Hurkacz. AP

Rafael Nadal had initially suggested he would be open to making what will likely be his final appearance at Roland Garros. The 22-time Grand Slam champion, however, has since reconsidered his stance especially after the manner in which he was sent packing from Rome.

Rafael Nadal had initially suggested he would be open to competing in the upcoming French Open despite a straight sets defeat against Hubert Hurkacz in the second round of the Italian Open. The 22-time Grand Slam champion, however, is now reconsidering whether he should be even making an appearance at the clay-court Major after the manner in which he was sent packing from Rome.

Rafael Nadal, who has a surgically-repaired hip and had dropped to 305 in the ATP rankings after missing almost the whole of the year 2023, proved no match for seventh-seed Hurkacz, suffering a 6-1, 6-3 defeat as a result, and would bid an emotional goodbye to Rome thereafter with thousands cheering him home both at the venue as well as outside it.

It was his first match against a player ranked inside the top-10 in a year-and-a-half — having last beaten the Casper Ruud (then ranked fourth) in the 2022 ATP Finals — and ‘Rafa’ couldn’t have been more disappointed with his performance, especially getting outplayed on clay — a surface that he was virtually unbeaten on.

“Tough day for me in all ways because I felt more ready than what I showed. I am little bit more unpredictable today, not playing enough for the last two years. Too many doubts,” Nadal, a record 10-time champion at Rome, said.

Winning just four games in the entire second-round encounter against his ninth-ranked opponent, it was Nadal’s most lopsided defeat in clay in 21 years, having last suffered such a defeat against Gaston Gaudio in Hamburg in 2003 at the age of 16.

Nadal had initially not ruled out making one last appearance at Roland Garros, where he is the record 14-time champion, and try and close out his glittering career with a 23rd Grand Slam victory. He will have to train a lot harder though if he is to remain competitive at the French Open that gets underway on 26 May.
When asked about his chances of competing at Roland Garros, Nadal said he had only two options.

“One is to say, ‘OK, I am not ready, I am not playing enough well,” Nadal said. “Another is accept how I am today and work the proper way to try to be in a different way in two weeks.

“The decision, as you can imagine, is not clear in my mind today. But if I have to say what’s my feeling and if my mind is closer one way or the other way, I going to say be in Roland Garros and try my best,” Nadal added. “Physically I have some issues, but not probably yet enough to say not playing in the most important event of my tennis career.”

Fans, though, appear to not have given up on Nadal, who has already indicated that this will be his final season on tour. Spectators at the Campo Centrale tried to encourage the 37-year-old with chants of “Ole Ole Ole, Ra-fa, Ra-fa”.

Nadal was then greeted by a massive crowd after while walking through the bridge leading out of the stadium and into the players’ area, with thousands of spectators cheering him on despite exiting from the tournament in an embarrassing fashion.

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