John McEnroe voiced his disbelief prior to Rafael Nadal's first round loss to Alexander Zverev in the French Open.

The tennis legend, who has clinched the title a record 14 times, has hinted at retirement after falling to a 6-3 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 defeat in the his first game back at Roland Garros. After missing the majority of 2023 through injury Nadal has fought back to fitness in recent months, before squaring off against a top-form Zverev, who just clinched the Italian Open.

Ultimately, any dreams of a fairytale run in Paris were dashed for Nadal, who appeared overcome by emotion after the defeat. And it backs up McEnroe, who criticized the decision-making around Nadal, arguing that it was absurd for someone of his calibre not to be seeded.

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"It doesn't make sense for someone who has won 14 times not to be seeded," McEnroe expressed to Marca. "It's the way the tournament has always acted. It's crazy to me. It's the most interesting first round of a major that I can remember and the toughest of the Open Era for someone like Nadal.

"He has to do whatever he wants. He loves to compete and if he loses to Zverev it doesn't mean that all his records at Roland Garros will be lost. Maybe it's time for him to be a father and it's time for everyone. Maybe I'm wrong and he'll be able to do something special here. It's a question mark as to how his body will recover as the rounds go by. If he wins on the one hand it will be a surprise and on the other not.

"If you asked me ten years ago how many times he was going to take the trophy I would have said four or five. People like him, Novak (Djokovic) or Roger (Federer) are Superman."

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The Spanish star reflected on his exit from the tournament in an emotional address, as he said: "It is difficult for me to talk, I don't know if it's the last time I'll be here in front of all of you. Honestly, I am not sure. If it is, then you have been amazing. The feelings I have today are difficult to describe in words. It is the place I love the most.

"I have to congratulate Sasha for this great match. I really wish you all the best in this tournament. 2022 was a tough moment for you so you deserve it.

"I have been going through a very tough two years in terms of injuries. I went all through these processes with the dream to be back here. The first round wasn't ideal. I was competitive and I had chances but it was difficult against a player as good as Sasha.

He added: "It's hard to say about the future. I am travelling with my family and I am having fun. The body is feeling better than it did two months ago. Maybe in two months I say it's enough. That is something I don't feel yet. I hope to be back here for the Olympics, that motivates me. I really hope to be well prepared."

Due to his fitness struggles, Nadal has dropped to world No. 276 in recent times. Despite McEnroe's objections that the rules should be adjusted for the 37-year-old 'King of Clay', he had to enter the French Open unseeded for the first time in his career.

2024-05-28T17:51:42Z dg43tfdfdgfd