Rafael Nadal drops some truth about what happened at the French Open

Nadal may have played his final match at Roland Garros, but he explained why he did not want a farewell ceremony this year.
Rafael Nadal at the French Open
Rafael Nadal at the French Open / Clive Mason/GettyImages

The crowd at Roland Garros watching the match between Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev certainly acted as if they were watching Nadal play for the final time at the French Open. Cheering the Spanish great during the match is one thing; he is naturally going to be most people's favorite player as he had won the event 14 times and was returning from injury. It was what happened after the match that mattered to the audience.

They didn't leave. They took photos and gave a standing ovation clearly in anticipation that Nadal would never play at the event again. He might play on the Paris clay at the Olympics, sure, but not at the French Open. That was a different matter.

The catch is that Nadal never said he wouldn't play in 2025. He implied he might not be based on recent injuries and his age. Still, he never made an official announcement that he was retiring at some point during 2024.

Rafael Nadal explains why he did not want a farewell ceremony at the French Open

He even played well enough in his first-round loss to Alexander Zverev to imply that he could have beaten most of the other players at Roland Garros. Nadal simply had a bad draw and facing Zverev in peak form was likely one of the worst matchups Nadal could have had. Though the Spaniard lost in straight sets, he played quite well.

While the crowd watching the match reacted as if this was the final time they would see Nadal at Roland Garros, he was not thinking this was definitely his final time. Even in his post-match press conference, Nadal said he could not predict the future so he was unsure whether he would return in 2025 or not. At the level he played against Zverev, he should be back next year, and he would be a threat.

In a recent interview with L'Equipe, Nadal explained why he did not want a farewell ceremony at the French Open. The Spaniard said, "At first, I said, ‘OK, let's go!’ But at the last minute, I said I didn’t want (a farewell ceremony), that's the truth. It would have bothered me to announce that it was the last time I was playing the tournament, knowing that I did not have the opportunity to prepare as I would have liked. And nothing prevents them from waiting a year."

That last part is extremely true, of course. Plus, giving a player a ceremony immediately after they suffered a loss might be odd. He needs to be able to process the match first. Then he can turn to his impending retirement at a later point.

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Nadal continued, "If the tribute takes place and I am retired, I will go there as a retiree. And if I still play, I will obviously be present. I preferred not to live with the idea that they had to pay tribute to me, because it was practically forcing me not to play here again and I was not ready at that time."

Too many athletes have said goodbye to their sport only to return later which makes crowd reaction a bit awkward. "Is this player truly retired?" Rafael Nadal clearly did not want that question asked of him.

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