Rafael Nadal Receives An Epic Hero’s Farewell From Rome To Soften The Blow Of Disheartening Italian Open Loss

Rafael Nadal
Tennis TV

It’s tough out here for all of us Rafael Nadal fans. Nagging injuries have plagued the 22-time Grand Slam champion throughout his storied career, and hip surgery knocked him out for most of 2023. Now in (probably) his final season on the ATP Tour, Rafa is doing his best to make one last stand. Alas, on his preferred surface, the King of Clay looked like a shell of himself at the Italian Open in a 6-1, 6-3 loss to Hubert Hurkacz in the Round of 64.

Clay court SZN is typically when Nadal looks most unbeatable. After all, he’s won the French Open a record 14 times, with a straight-up silly lifetime record of 112-3 at Roland Garros. But like Shaq or any other elite athlete who’s used to dominating, Father Time catches up to everyone at some point. The wear and tear Rafa’s body has endured is showing. If Saturday did indeed mark his last hurrah at this tournament, other than emerging with his 11th Italian Open title, Nadal couldn’t have asked for a much better send-off.

The scenes in Rome on Saturday were immaculate, as throngs of Rafa stans saw him out of The Eternal City in a celebration fit for a Caesar.

DAMN I’m going to miss Rafa so much. He’s brought immense amounts of joy and entertainment to millions upon millions of people over the years. Slugging it out with Roger Federer. Somehow beating him in Grand Slam singles titles. Doing his best to fend off the insufferable, indefatigable cyborg Novak Djokovic. All you can do is tip your cap to the absolute legend that Rafa is.

Gotta love Hurkacz showing loads of class after the match and acknowledging all that his opponent has done over the years for the sport of tennis.

A lot of the all-time greats tend to have the capacity to dig deep and grind out another spectacular run. See: Tiger Woods at the 2019 Masters.

Nadal turns 38 at the beginning of next month, however, and tennis is far more physically taxing than golf. I fear that the emergence of the next wave of young guns in reigning Australian Open champ Jannik Sinner (22), two-time Grand Slam champ Carlos Alcaraz (21), and Casper Ruud (25) — not to mention the fact that Djoker is still world No. 1 at age 36 — hinders the chances that Rafa can make a deep run at the 2024 French Open. Nevertheless, in about two weeks I’ll be cheering like crazy for him to do precisely that.

Silver-lining PS: Despite the bitter disappointment of getting his tail kicked against Hurkacz, Rafa kept the door open maybe three inches (IYKYK) for a Rome return.

VAMOS, RAFA! Get tuned up and healthy for Roland Garros!

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