Misc Tennis

Zverev thought news of drawing Nadal for French Open was a joke

Zverev thought news of drawing Nadal for French Open was a joke

PARIS — Alexander Zverev thought his brother was joking when he was told he would be facing 14-time champion Rafael Nadal in the opening round of the French Open.

Nadal, who has barely played this year, will be making his last appearance at the Grand Slam he has owned for nearly two decades. He is not seeded because of his low ranking.

There was always the danger that the Spaniard could be paired with one of the top players, and Zverev drew the short straw, even though he will be a firm favorite to win.

“I was on court with [Andrey] Rublev yesterday on Chatrier practicing, and then after the practice was over, which was actually a great practice, my brother told me,” Zverev, a semifinalist for the past three years, said Friday.

It will be their first meeting since the 2022 semifinal, when Zverev retired after a serious ankle injury, with Nadal going on to win his 14th title by thrashing Casper Ruud in the final.

“I actually thought he was joking in the beginning. But then, yeah, it is what it is. I mean, obviously, to be very honest, 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,” Zverev said. “Ideally, I would have liked to play him in the latter stage of the tournament. It’s a tough draw, but it’s a tough draw for both of us. We’ll see how it goes on Monday.”

Some have suggested Nadal should have been seeded, given his record at Roland Garros, but Zverev said organizers had no choice but to stick to the ATP rankings.

“Of course I can guarantee you Novak [Djokovic] didn’t want to play Rafa in the first round, and [Carlos] Alcaraz and Jannik [Sinner] didn’t want to play him,” Zverev said. “I don’t want to play him in the first round, but it is how it is. I think he’s excited, and I’m excited for it.”

Nadal’s domination at Roland Garros, where for many years he looked invincible, means he retains the aura, even if his powers have diminished because of injuries.

“For me, in my mind, I’m going to play peak Rafa Nadal. That’s what I expect him to be,” Zverev said. “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.

“That’s my mindset…

Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at www.espn.com – TENNIS…