Rafael Nadal Loses in the French Open’s First Round to Alexander Zverev

 Spain's Rafael Nadal gestures to the public as he leaves the court after losing against Germany's Alexander Zverev in their men's singles match on Court Philippe-Chatrier on day two of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on May 27, 2024. (AFP)
Spain's Rafael Nadal gestures to the public as he leaves the court after losing against Germany's Alexander Zverev in their men's singles match on Court Philippe-Chatrier on day two of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on May 27, 2024. (AFP)
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Rafael Nadal Loses in the French Open’s First Round to Alexander Zverev

 Spain's Rafael Nadal gestures to the public as he leaves the court after losing against Germany's Alexander Zverev in their men's singles match on Court Philippe-Chatrier on day two of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on May 27, 2024. (AFP)
Spain's Rafael Nadal gestures to the public as he leaves the court after losing against Germany's Alexander Zverev in their men's singles match on Court Philippe-Chatrier on day two of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on May 27, 2024. (AFP)

Rafael Nadal lost in the first round of the French Open to Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 on Monday in what might turn out to be the 14-time Roland Garros champion’s last match at his favorite tournament.

It is the first time in his long and illustrious career that Nadal has been beaten in two consecutive matches on clay courts and the first time he has dropped a match earlier than the fourth round at the French Open. His career record at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament is now 112-4.

The match was played with the retractable roof shut at Court Philippe Chatrier, and the loud cheers for Nadal from most in the capacity crowd of about 15,000 echoed throughout.

Nadal, who owns 22 major trophies in all, turns 38 on June 3 and he has been dealing with hip and abdominal injuries since January 2023, limiting him to 15 matches and an 8-7 record since the start of last year. His infrequent play dropped his ranking to No. 275 and he was unseeded for the French Open for the first time.

That is why he ended up facing the No. 4-seeded Zverev, the runner-up at the 2020 US Open, a gold medalist at the Tokyo Olympics and the only man to reach the semifinals in Paris each of the past three years.

Nadal has indicated 2024 likely would be his last season before retirement but he said Saturday that he is not 100% sure he won’t play again at the French Open. And he reiterated that after Monday's defeat.

His three other losses at Roland Garros came against Robin Soderling in 2010 and against Novak Djokovic in 2015 and 2021.



Albania Scores After 23 Seconds for Quickest Ever Goal at the European Championship

Bajrami became just the second Albanian to score at a European Championship, after Armando Sadiku in 2016. - The AP
Bajrami became just the second Albanian to score at a European Championship, after Armando Sadiku in 2016. - The AP
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Albania Scores After 23 Seconds for Quickest Ever Goal at the European Championship

Bajrami became just the second Albanian to score at a European Championship, after Armando Sadiku in 2016. - The AP
Bajrami became just the second Albanian to score at a European Championship, after Armando Sadiku in 2016. - The AP

It took 23 seconds for Albania to leave a record-breaking mark on the European Championship.

Nedim Bajrami scored the fastest goal in the tournament's 64-year history when he pounced on an errant throw-in by Italy left back Federico Dimarco, took a touch, then smashed a rising shot inside the near post in Dortmund on Saturday.

It usurped the previous quickest goal at the Euros, scored by Dmitri Kirichenko of Russia after 67 seconds against Greece in 2004.

Albania wound up losing 2-1 in its opening match in Group B but fans of this tiny Western Balkan nation will always remember that moment they briefly shocked the defending champions.

Even if, as it transpired, it jolted Italy into action.

“We took it as a positive shock to the system,” Italy winger Federico Chiesa said. “It gave us flashbacks of the final in Euro 2020 when we immediately fell behind.”

According to The AP, on that occasion, the Italians bounced back to draw 1-1 with England and win the penalty shootout, and they showed similar character against Albania in a match that felt like it was being staged in Tirana.

The sight of the sea of Albanian red that filled Westfalenstadion blew away Sylvinho, the team's Brazil-born coach.

“We knew the entire stadium would be red,” he said, “but outside I saw so many Albanians proud to be here at the European Championship.”

Indeed, the former Barcelona and Arsenal defender said his players might have struggled to cope with the intensity of the occasion, given Albania has only ever played in one major tournament previously, Euro 2016.

“Once you are used to playing in this kind of competition, it gets easy,” Sylvinho said. "Take my case, I was used to playing in the Champions League when I was a player. I knew what to expect in nights when we played Real Madrid, Milan, Juventus.

“When you are not used to playing in this kind of competition, you have no idea what you are expected to play. The first one was going to be difficult. Now there will be no problems with the emotions involved.”

Bajrami became just the second Albanian to score at a European Championship, after Armando Sadiku in 2016.