Tennis-Nadal would have beat most players with level against Zverev, says Wilander

By Thomson Reuters May 28, 2024 | 9:49 AM

PARIS (Reuters) – Rafa Nadal’s level of tennis during his French Open defeat by Alexander Zverev on Monday would have earned him victory against the vast majority of players in the draw, according to former Roland Garros champion Mats Wilander.

The 37-year-old Spaniard, who missed almost all of 2023 with injuries, went down in straight sets to the fourth-seed German as Zverev became only the third player to beat the 14-time champion on the Parisian clay.

In what was possibly his last match at the tournament he has dominated for almost two decades, Nadal showed flashes of his former brilliance and has made no secret of targeting a return to Roland Garros for this year’s Paris Olympics.

He also offered some hope to his legions of fans that he might extend his career a little longer.

Wilander said the prospect of him playing at the Olympics was exciting.

“Obviously the Olympics are huge and for him to have the chance to play here on Philippe Chatrier is amazing and could be an unbelievable end to his career,” Wilander told Eurosport.

“I think he beats 90% of the draw today. There’s only a few guys that would beat him playing this well. And Zverev was the worst opponent possible in the first round, worse than playing (Novak) Djokovic, worse than playing (Carlos) Alcaraz.”

Wilander said the fact the roof on Philippe Chatrier was closed for the match worked against Nadal.

“The circumstances, it’s indoor, cold outside, the ball doesn’t travel. So I think all that, and still being so close it’s all positive for Rafa and with that passion, why not. He knows how to win big matches on this court,” the Swede said.

Alex Corretja, the former world number two, said he had detected a change in heart from his compatriot Nadal.

“I spoke to him a couple of months ago and he was sure he wouldn’t be back (at the French Open),” Corretja told Eurosport.

“But then I spoke to him a week ago, and he said to me it’s the first time I’ve been practising here at Roland Garros that I feel no pain. He said he felt so good on the court and that his tennis is growing and doesn’t see any reason why he can’t come back at least one more time.

“But he also said, it depends how I play. If I play awful against Zverev, maybe I won’t come back. But the way he played, I believe he will think why not come back.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson)