27 May 2024, 19:49

French Open fans get behind 'super hero' Nadal

PARIS, May 27, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - From Australia, China and the United States, 
Rafael Nadal fans descended on a chilly and damp Roland Garros on Monday, 
hoping to inspire their "super hero" to victory at the French Open.

Nadal, the record 14-time champion, was taking on Alexander Zverev in a tough 
first round encounter for a player whose career twilight has been stalled by 

His army of fans hope that whatever happens on the Philippe Chatrier Court, 
which the Spanish star has dominated for the best part of 20 years, he will 
remain true to his word and not retire despite his 38th birthday fast 

"You always have to keep the faith in Rafa, he will win," Hazel, a 28-year-
old fan who had flown in from China for a second straight year after being 
left disappointed when Nadal withdrew in 2023, told AFP.

"The most important thing is that he stays healthy," she says, as she proudly 
showed the banners she had made with the colours of Spain, Nadal's face and 
the message "Welcome back my super hero".

Nadal has only lost three times in 115 matches at the tournament since his 
title-winning debut as a 19-year-old in 2005.

He said at the weekend that there was a chance this may be his last French 
Open but insisted he was still keeping the door "100% open" on continuing his 

"You see a lot of 'Thank you Rafa' shirts. He's a monument at this 
tournament," said 41-year-old Manolo who has come to Europe from the United 
States to watch Nadal and then Real Madrid play in the Champions League final 
in London this Saturday.

He has seen Nadal win at Wimbledon and the US Open as well as Paris but 
admits Monday's clash with world number four Zverev "will be very difficult".

"I hope he beats Zverev... Rafa is Rafa," he said.

"It's possibly the last time he plays here, so we're very happy to watch 
him," said Alsi, a 40-year-old fan living in Australia.

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