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A STRAIGHT SETS DEFEAT | French Open: Alexander Zverev stuns Rafael Nadal in first-round blockbuster

IANS | Updated on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 10:38 AM IST
French Open: Alexander Zverev stuns Rafael Nadal in first-round blockbuster

PARIS: Alexander Zverev added another feather to his crown, becoming only the third player in recent times to beat 14-time champion Rafael Nadal in the French Open, handing the Spanish legend a straight sets defeat in a blockbuster first-round encounter here on Monday.

With World No.1 Novak Djokovic, Iga Swiatek, and Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz watching from the stands, Zverev defeated Nadal 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 in a three-hour battle at the Court Philippe-Chatrier on Monday afternoon.

The clash between Nadal and Zvarev, the fourth seed from Germany, was the marquee match on the second day at Roland Garros. But it ended in disappointment for the Spanish clay-court specialist who is now virtually in the final stages of his career following multiple injury breaks.

After just over 45 minutes Zverev broke for a second time in the match to wrap up the first set against Nadal 6-3. The German broke Nadal's service in the first game and set the early tone for the match. Some big serving enabled Zverev to keep his nose in front thereafter as Nadal battled hard to stay in the set but lost a long ninth game to drop serve for a second time.

The same trend continued, and Zverev took a stranglehold on the match by edging the second set tiebreak 7-5. Rafa had his chances in that set -– he served for it at 5-4 only to be broken to love and he had two break points with the German serving at 5-5. There wasn’t much to separate the two players in the shootout either when they swapped ends at 3-3. The fourth seed produced a winning drop volley to go up a mini break at 4-3 and came through a 19-shot exchange to extend that lead to 5-3.

A packed house was treated to a bit of Nadal magic with a rocket of a forehand pass to bring the scores back to 5-4 but a poor drop shot then left Zverev up 6-4 and with two set points. The right-hander converted the second of those to go up two sets to love and leave the left-handed 14-time Roland Garros champion staring at an early exit.

This was Nadal’s first match on Court Philippe-Chatrier since triumphing in 2022. He is 112-3 at Roland Garros and has not lost to someone other than Novak Djokovic at the tournament since 2009 (Robin Soderling).

But the Spanish star has struggled with injuries over the past couple of years and tallied a 5-3 record this clay-court season entering Roland Garros, well below his lofty standards.

The German fourth seed Zverev broke Nadal in the seventh game of the third set. Nadal kept things very tight, but Zverev, the three-time Roland Garros semifinalist from Hamburg, rode the momentum to win the set 6-3 and clinch the match.

 

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