Rafael Nadal fights but falls to Alexander Zverev at Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal suffered his earliest Roland Garros loss in a career

by Jovica Ilic
SHARE
Rafael Nadal fights but falls to Alexander Zverev at Roland Garros
© Clive Mason / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal will not seek his 15th Roland Garros title. The veteran fell to world no. 4 Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 in the first round on Court Philippe-Chatrier, suffering his earliest Parisian defeat despite giving everything against an in-form rival.

Nadal played his fifth tournament of the season, hoping for a good run at his beloved event but drawing one of the world's best players. Rafa served for the second set and led in the third. However, he squandered his chances and fell in three sets, suffering his fourth Roland Garros defeat and playing potentially his last match at his favorite Major.

Alexander served at 78% in the opening set. He dropped six points in his games, saved two break points in a troubled one and kept the pressure on the other side. Rafa produced three fine holds but got broken at the beginning and the end of the set for a slow start.

Zverev grabbed a break at love in the first game of the encounter, starting convincingly and looking eager to impose his strokes right from the beginning. The German attack in the second game and caused the Spaniard's backhand mistake, confirming the break and moving 2-0 in front.

Alexander Zverev, Roland Garros 2024© Clive Mason / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Alexander netted a backhand in the third game, allowing Rafa to grab his first game and get his name on the scoreboard, giving the crowd on Court Philippe-Chatrier something to cheer about.

World no. 4 netted a routine forehand in the fourth game, playing against two break points. He denied them, the second with a forehand winner and held for 3-1. Rafa held at love in the fifth game, remaining within one break deficit before his rival repeated that in the next one with a forehand winner, opening a 4-2 lead.

The 14-time champion clinched the seventh game at 15 after a caused error, hoping for more return chances. Instead, the German closed the eighth game with a powerful serve, moving 5-3 up and forcing the Spaniard to serve to stay in the set.

Alexander denied Rafa's game point with a drop shot winner and created a set point after the rival's loose backhand. Nadal saved it with a forced error but faced another after a wayward backhand.

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2024© Clive Mason / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Alexander Zverev beat Rafael Nadal in straight sets at Roland Garros.

Rafa erased it with a service winner and missed a game point. Zverev generated the third set point with a running forehand down the line winner and seized it after Nadal's terrible forehand, wrapping up the opener 6-3 after 50 minutes.

They battled for 70 minutes in the second set, and the veteran squandered a chance to level the overall score and improve his position. Both players served over 80% and grabbed one break from three return chances, staying neck and neck until the tie break.

World no. 4 held at love in the first game with a service winner, and Nadal responded with a winner at the net in the next one, locking the result at 1-1. Alexander fired a forehand winner in the third game for another comfortable hold and made a push on the return in the next one.

Nadal sprayed a careless backhand error and faced two break points. The veteran denied them and held with a forehand winner, rattling off four points and gaining a boost.

Alexander Zverev, Roland Garros 2024© Clive Mason / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Zverev netted a forehand in the fifth game and faced a break point.

Nadal converted it with a drop shot winner, delivering his first break of the match and moving in front. Rafa drew Alexander's mistake in the sixth game, cementing the lead and gaining another injection of confidence. The German held at 15 in the seventh game, and the Spaniard secured the next one for a 5-3 advantage, forcing the opponent to serve to stay in the set.

Alexander stayed focused at 15-30 and clinched three straight points, reducing the deficit and prolonging the set. Zverev stepped in on the return in game ten and landed a forehand down the line winner for three break points.

Alexander caused Rafa's mistake, breaking back at love and sending momentum to his side of the court. Nadal remained competitive despite the setback, creating two break points in the 11th game after Zverev's double fault.

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2024© Clive Mason / Staff - Getty Images Sport

World no.

4 denied them with service winners and held with a forced error after a fine smash for a 6-5 advantage. The veteran held at love in the 12th game, introducing a tie break and improving his chances. They exchanged early mini-breaks before Zverev grabbed another in the seventh point with a crafty volley winner.

Rafa erased the deficit with a forehand crosscourt winner in the ninth point before facing two set points after a wayward drop shot and Alexander's backhand winner at the net. The German converted the second on his serve at 6-5, landing a powerful serve and opening a 6-3, 7-6 advantage after an hour and 59 minutes.

The Spaniard saved two break points in the first game of the third set and held with a winner at the net, avoiding an early setback. Nadal landed a backhand winner in the second game, generating three break points and clinching the third with a forehand down the line winner that sent him 2-0 in front.

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2024© Clive Mason / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Instead of building on that, Rafa lost serve in the next one after Alexander's crafty behind-the-back volley winner. The German netted a volley in the fourth game, offering the Spaniard a break chance.

Zverev saved it with a forehand winner and locked the result at 2-2 with a service winner. Nadal faced the ultimate challenge in game five, playing against four break points. The Spaniard built a 40-15 lead before experiencing issues.

However, he fought back and saved all four break points before holding for a 3-2 advantage, doing everything to hang in. However, Zverev left those chances behind and held at love in game six with a service winner for 3-3. The German landed a backhand down the line return winner in the seventh game, securing a break and moving closer to the finish line.

Still, Alexander hit a double fault in the eighth game and faced two break points. Zverev kept his composure, erasing them and producing a crucial hold with a backhand crosscourt winner for a 5-3 lead. The German grabbed another break in game nine, sealing the deal and celebrating a notable victory over the king of clay.

Rafael Nadal Alexander Zverev Roland Garros
SHARE