Rafael Nadal's farewell: is it the end of an era?

The Spanish champion was defeated in the first round of Roland Garros by Alexander Zverev. But Rafa has not closed the door to a possible come back..

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Rafael Nadal's farewell: is it the end of an era?
© Clive Brunskill / Staff Getty Images Sport

It's the end of an era, considering that Rafael Nadal may have given his last farewell at the Roland Garros. Or maybe not. Because at the moment not even Rafael Nadal knows Rafael Nadal's future! The Spanish champion may have played his last match at Roland Garros against Alexander Zverev, but the ovation given to him by the Philippe-Chatrier crowd could also have a specific weight in the Spaniard's future decisions. Because Rafa himself, in the press conference, left a small door open.

112 matches won and 14 successes at Roland Garros: crazy, legendary numbers that wrote the history of sport. And Alexander Zverev became one of the few tennis players to have beaten Nadal at the Roland Garros. Rafa had never lost two consecutive matches on clay and on only two occasions had he stopped in the first round in a Slam: at Wimbledon in 2013 and at the Australian Open in 2016. Nadal fought, giving his all and even exceeding the expectations of the day before, but it wasn't enough. The German ousted the 14-time Roland Garros champion from the Parisian slam with the final result of 6-3 7-6(5) 6-3.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal© Clive Brunskill / Staff Getty Images Sport

At the end of the match Nadal thanked all the people present for their support, keeping open a very small glimmer of the possibility that today is just a goodbye.

"I want to say thank you to everyone. It's not easy for me to talk. I don't know if this will be the last time, I'm not 100% sure, but if it were to be I felt extraordinary sensations. It's really nice to receive all this love in the place I love the most. I want to congratulate Sasha on the match and the victory in Rome, I wish you the best for the rest of the tournament. I know 2022 has been a difficult year for you, so I wish you good luck for the future. It's been a very difficult two years for me due to injuries. The dream has always been to return to play this tournament. This certainly wasn't the ideal first round. I played to my full potential but it wasn't easy. There is a very good possibility that I will never play this tournament again.

The body feels better than it did two months ago. Maybe in two months I'll say I've had enough of tennis, but at the moment I have other goals. I want to play in the Olympics and I hope to arrive prepared and competitive at the event. The sensations I felt on this field were extraordinary, as a child I never imagined I would reach the age of 38 with all these memories. Having won so many times was something unimaginable. For every single year I have different but special memories. I thank all the people who helped and supported me, my team, family, friends. The sensations you made me experience here will remain indelible in my heart," he said.

Rafael Nadal Roland Garros Alexander Zverev