Rafael Nadal earns brutal draw in likely final French Open, but he'll have the world's support

rafael nadal earns brutal draw in likely final french open, but he'll have the world's support

Rafael Nadal.

Rafael Nadal is readying for his likely final appearance at the French Open, the major he's dominated in historic proportions over the last two decades.

The 37-year-old Spaniard learned on Thursday that he'll be facing world No. 4 Alexander Zverev in the first round of the event, a brutal draw for Nadal in what fans were hoping would be a magical send-off.

Nadal captured the first of his record 14 French Open singles crowns in 2005 at the age of 19 and his 22 Grand Slam titles are second most all time. Nadal will turn 38 on June 3, though, and missed most of the 2023 season while recovering from hip surgery.

His most recent berth in a major championship final came two years ago at the French Open, when he defeated Casper Ruud in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3, 6-0. Before that, however, Nadal advanced past Zverev in the semifinals after the German suffered an ankle injury during their matchup.

Zverev has made a pair of Australian Open semifinals (2020, 2024), three straight French Open semifinals and advanced to the 2020 US Open finals against Dominic Thiem but has yet to earn a major victory. He's coming off a first-place finish at the Italian Open, defeating Nicolas Jarry in straight sets (6-4, 7-5) on Sunday for his 22nd career ATP title.

Nadal is 7-3 in head-to-head matchups with Zverev and has won five of their six meetings on clay, losing only in the 2021 Madrid quarterfinals.

Though Nadal faces a tall task in his opening match next week, he'll likely have most of the tennis world pulling for him.

Not only has he kept a largely clean image off the court and become one of the all-time greats as the "King of Clay," but his opponent is currently facing domestic abuse allegations.

Zverev's trial in Germany related to the allegations is scheduled to begin during the upcoming tournament, though he's not required to be in attendance.

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