ATP

Zverev gearing up to face 'peak Nadal' in Roland Garros opener

By Sports Desk May 25, 2024

Alexander Zverev is preparing to face a Rafael Nadal at the peak of his powers when they collide in the first round at the French Open.

The fourth seed takes on the 14-time winner in the most eye-catching tie of the opening round at Roland Garros, where they memorably locked horns in the 2022 semi-finals.

It looked set to be a classic encounter on Court Philippe Chatrier until Zverev suffered a horrifying ankle ligament injury at the back end of the second set, following which he was forced to retire.

The German admits that will be in the back of his mind two years on, and the three-time semi-finalist is fresh from claiming his first ATP Masters title in three years at the Italian Open last time out.

Nadal, meanwhile, has suffered an almost endless battle with injuries since that last-four clash, but stepped up preparations for his Roland Garros swansong with successive appearances in Barcelona, Madrid and Rome.

Nevertheless, Zverev is ready to face an inspired Spaniard, who boasts an incredible 112-3 record at this event.

"In my mind, I'm going to play peak Rafa Nadal," the 27-year-old said. "That's what I expect him to be. I expect him to be at his absolute best. I expect him to play the best tennis he's played in a long time on this court.

"I wanted to play Rafa again in my career, in his career, because I didn't want my last memory of me playing against Rafa to be me leaving the court in a wheelchair.

"Ideally, I would have liked to play him in the later stage of the tournament, but it is how it is now. He is unseeded this year. I am seeded. It's a tough draw, but it's a tough draw for both of us. We'll see how it goes on Monday."

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