Nadal’s immortality: Rafael Nadal King’s Legacy Lives On And On

Nadal’s immortality: Rafael Nadal King’s Legacy Lives On And On

Rafael Nadal leaves a legacy that can never be surpassed if this is indeed his final match at the French Open.

It doesn’t really matter that German fourth seed Alexander Zverev defeated him 6-3, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 in the first round.

A remarkable career that includes numerous amazing victories and memories, a 112-4 win-loss record, and fourteen titles over nearly two decades do.

Roland Garros, the French Open, and Court Philippe-Chatrier have all been love stories for Rafael Nadal.

Following the loss, the 37-year-old Spaniard said it directly.

Nadal said to the adoring crowd, “It is so special to feel the love of the people in the place I love the most.”

“I could never have dreamed when I was a child that I would be here, nearly 38 years old, and have achieved so much success and victories here.

“All the memories every single year have been special and different.”

A wide shot of Rafael Nadal waving to the French Open crowd as fans applaud him as he leaves the Roland Garros court.

Nadal took a time to gather himself after losing in the first round of the French Open before speaking to the fans.Jean-François Badias, AP

Nadal has also done so.

He is not even a once-in-a-generation player; Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer ensured that he is a once-in-a-lifetime talent.

Whereas those two were able to rule the hard and grass courts, Nadal was a physical bull facing off against a sophisticated, fashionable throwback and a metronomic brick wall that was out to change the course of tennis history.

Federer often relates the tale of how Nike first approached him about the Capri pants that Rafael Nadal would become famous for, but he turned them down.

The legendary Swiss thought he lacked the guts to pull them off.

When Nadal wore pants with muscle tops in 2005, he made them work. Pants hadn’t been in style since the 1960s. This was evident in only his second Australian Open main draw.


Rafael Nadal was already pushing the limits of what was conceivable with a racquet and in terms of style at the age of twenty.(Getty Images: WireImage by Cynthia Lum)

Nadal’s ability to make things work is what makes him so special.

Undoubtedly, nobody exerted more effort both on and off the court.

Nadal, who is well-known for his physical prowess, has often outclassed his opponents.

Time and time again.

Some of the better moments happened at Roland Garros.

It’s unlikely that Rafael Nadal’s 112-4 record at the French Open will ever be surpassed.(Alessandra Tarantino for AP)

One of the greatest matches of all time occurred during his five-set triumph over Djokovic in the 2013 semifinals. The Spaniard had been out for seven months due to a serious knee injury. He went on to defeat the Serbian 9-7 in the fifth set and went on to defeat fellow countryman David Ferrer in the final.

Something else happened when he got even with Sweden’s Robin Söderling in the 2010 championship match.

In the 2009 competition, Söderling upset Rafael Nadal in the fourth round before Federer defeated him in the championship match.

In the 2010 final, Nadal defeated the free-swinging Swede 6-4, 6-2, 6-4; the Swede never got a chance.

To put his achievement into perspective, consider that in 2005, just days after turning 19, Rafael Nadal won his maiden French Open, becoming the youngest winner to do so since Michael Chang in 1989 and the first since Mats Wilander in 1982.

Tennis chameleon

Nadal’s immortality was secured when he defeated Roger Federer in the 2008 Wimbledon final on grass.Ben Radford/Corbis (Getty)

But it would be disingenuous to dismiss him as only the greatest clay-court player of all time.

Even so, he prevailed at Wimbledon.

Even though the low-bouncing grass is as harsh for western forehands as clay is for players like Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, Rafael Nadal managed to adjust to the surface and win the trophy twice at The All England Club in 2008 and 2010.

He has been unique in part because of his capacity to overcome hardship.

The recovery from the 2009 knee injury, the unsubstantiated drug claims, and of course tailoring his style to fit the evolving needs of both the sport and himself.

The Court Philippe Chartrier audience was as enthralled with Rafael Nadal’s every play during his defeat by Alexander Zverev in straight sets.Jean-Francois Badias, the AP

Even now, he approaches the net more frequently and goes for more serves than in the past. An admission that he is not done but has outlived his prime.

That was evident in the match against Zverev.

The German is a fantastic tennis player despite all the off-court accusations made against him. He is scheduled to go on trial soon on charges related to domestic abuse.

Zverev, who just won the Rome Masters a few weeks ago, is a strong favorite to win this championship and complete a career grand slam.

After enduring crippling injuries for eighteen months, the elderly bull propelled him beyond three hours on the court.

“Extra time” or loaned time?

In the second and third sets, Nadal led by a break until the heavier hitter sent him flying across the court.

He was unable to stop Zverev because he had not practised in matches.

Furthermore, it’s unlikely that Todd Woodbridge has ever made a more moving speech.

“He just needs more time,” the Hall of Famer said as the game was coming to a close.

Woodbridge may not be entirely off.

While Nadal’s mishandled forehand on match point may have been a sign of his decline, he wasn’t bad. Nadal could be proud even when the cameras cut to Carlos Alcaraz, the Spanish number one and Nadal’s successor, standing in the spectators with agony written all over his face.

Even Zverev appeared shattered and dejected at what he had just done, as the audience screamed “Rafa” in response.

The 27-year-old German added, “To be honest, I don’t know what to say,” which aptly captured the stunned Parisian audience’s reaction—after all, they had so rarely witnessed Nadal lose.

“From the whole tennis community, thank you, Rafa. It truly is an honor.

“I grew up watching Rafa play, and I had the good fortune to compete against him on this exquisite court multiple times.

“Today is not my moment, it is Rafa’s moment.”

True enough, yet one could argue that the triumph was poetic.

Zverev slid during a battle in the second set tiebreak in a 2022 semifinal against Rafael Nadal, breaking his ankle.

Many believed he could have defeated Rafa on that particular day, elevating him to the top of the world rankings.

Nadal concurred as well.

After their first-round encounter, he stated, “I have to congratulate Sascha for this great match and victory, I really wish you all the best.”

“2022 I know was a super tough moment for you.”

If 2022 proved to be a difficult year for Zverev, Nadal had many difficult ones in 2023 and 2024.

Following his 2022 Australian and French Open victories, he suffered an injury in Melbourne in 2023 that left him permanently changed and often discussing the end of his illustrious career.

One final attempt?

The Spaniard still sounds conflicted, but there’s still a chance for glory.

“I have been going through a very tough two years in terms of injuries and I went through all this process to be here back at Roland Garros,” Nadal stated.

“I’m pretty sure I won’t be returning to Roland Garros to play.

“I haven’t felt that yet, but maybe in two months I’ll say enough.

“I hope to be back on this court for the Olympics, that is going to be another chance.”

But Father Time is a notoriously nasty man. It denied Federer the chance to win his final Wimbledon, and it might have cost Nadal a final French Open.

A different kind of burden is placed on the Olympics: the weight of a nation.

Unlike competitors Federer and Djokovic, who had a meltdown at the last Games, Nadal has already won an Olympic gold medal in men’s singles tennis.

Roland Garros will host tennis in Paris, and it might be a nicer send-off for Rafael Nadal than this tournament, but he’ll need to maintain his fitness and keep improving.

Although no one would fully count him out because to his excellent past on French clay, it remains to be seen whether the sporting gods will treat him fairly.

Historically, they haven’t.

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