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Rafael Nadal swept by Alexander Zverev in possible French Open farewell

Rafael Nadal lost in the French Open first round for the first time in what may have been his last match at the tournament he has won a record 14 times.

No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany swept Nadal 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 on Monday.

“I don’t know (if) it’s going to be the last time that I’m going to be here in front of all of you,” Nadal said in an on-court interview. “Honestly, I’m not 100% sure, but if it’s last time, I enjoy it, no?”

The 37-year-old Nadal, unseeded because he missed most of the last year and a half due to injuries, said before the tournament that there was “a big, big chance” it will be his last French Open.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | Broadcast Schedule

“My body have been a jungle for two years,” he said. “You don’t know what to expect. I wake up one day, and I found a snake biting me. Another day a tiger. Have been a big fighting with all the things that I went through, no? But the dynamic is positive the last few weeks.”

Nadal said Saturday that he would need time after the tournament to decide about returning to the event in 2025.

“Maybe in two months I say it’s enough, I can’t give anything else, no?” Nadal said after Monday’s match. “But it’s something I don’t feel yet. I have some goals in front. I hope to be back on this court for the (Paris) Olympics. That motivates me. That’s going to be another chance, and I really hope to be well prepared.”

Zverev, who won the last top-level tour event before the French Open, broke Nadal at love in the opening game, then again to secure the first set.

Nadal broke Zverev to go up 3-2 in the second, then was broken at love while serving for the set.

Nadal won the first two games of the third set before Zverev closed it out. Zverev made 77 percent of his first serves, saved nine of 11 break points and had 44 winners to 30 unforced errors.

“Today is not my moment,” he said. “It’s Rafa’s moment.”

Nadal dropped to 112-4 in his French Open career and has now lost back-to-back matches on clay for the first time since he made his ATP Tour match debut in April 2002.

He entered the French Open with a 5-3 record in clay-court matches this season after missing nearly all of 2023 due to a left hip injury that required surgery last June.

“The last two years I have been working and going through probably the toughest process in my tennis career with the dream to come back here, no?” he said. “At least I did. I mean, I lost, but that’s part of the business.”

For the Paris Olympics, Nadal is eligible to use an injury protected ranking of No. 9 to get into the singles draw.

No. 3 seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain said Sunday that he and Nadal plan to play doubles together at the Olympics “if everything goes well.”

Nadal said the Olympics are his “main goal” and that it would be “difficult” to play Wimbledon next month because it would require going from clay courts to grass courts and then back to clay courts for the Olympics.

“Give me two months till Olympics, and then let’s see if I am able to keep going or I say, OK, guys, it’s more than enough,” Nadal said. “Let’s see. I mean, today is not a moment to analyze all these kind of things. It’s a moment just to keep going, accept the moment, and let’s see what’s going on.”

Earlier Monday, top seed Iga Swiatek swept 148th-ranked Frenchwoman Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2 to reach a second-round match with fellow four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka on Wednesday.

The Paris Olympic tennis fields will largely be known after the French Open.