Rafael Nadal Showered With Love by Tennis Fans Following Defeat at Italian Open

Rafael Nadal waves to tennis fans at the Italian Open in Rome following his loss to Hubert Hurkacz on Saturday.
Rafael Nadal waves to tennis fans at the Italian Open in Rome following his loss to Hubert Hurkacz on Saturday. / @InteBNLdItalia/X (formerly Twitter)

10-time Italian Open champion Rafael Nadal said goodbye to fans at Rome for likely the final time in his storied tennis career following his loss to world No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz at Center Court on Saturday.

Nadal, who was making his return to the court after missing the Australian Open in January with a hip injury, was defeated in straight sets 6-1, 6-3 by Hurkacz.

After the match, thousands of tennis fans waited outside Center Court for the Spaniard to walk by. Nadal has implied that he will announce his retirement after the 2024 season, making this his likely curtain call in Italy. When Nadal appeared and began to wave, the crowd roared its approval in an incredible scene.

What a special moment.

The 37-year-old Nadal had few answers for the powerful game of Hurkacz, who fired nine aces, 22 winners and won 83 percent of his first-serve points in the straight-set victory.

After the match, Nadal expressed disappointment in his play before he addressed his status in the upcoming French Open, which begins on May 26.

"One is to say, 'OK, I am not ready, I am not playing enough well,'" Nadal said. "Another is accept how I am today and work the proper way to try to be in a different way in two weeks."

Nadal, a record 14-time champion at Roland Garros, had yet to commit to the event when asked prior to Saturday's loss, though he did indicate that he is "closer" to playing in the French Open and giving it his all.

Nadal has won 22 Grand Slams, 92 ATP singles titles, an Olympic gold medal and over $134 million in prize money since turning pro back in 2001, making him one of the most accomplished players of all-time.


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Tim Capurso

TIM CAPURSO

Tim Capurso is a Staff Writer on the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated. Previously he wrote for RotoBaller and ClutchPoints, where he was the lead editor for MLB, College Football and NFL coverage. A lifelong Yankees and Giants fan, Tim grew up just outside New York City and now lives near Philadelphia. When he's not writing, Tim enjoys reading, exercising and spending time with his family, including his three-legged cat Willow, who, unfortunately, is an Eagles fan.