For the first time in nineteen years, Roland-Garros has started without its king. Death in the soul, or rather with his defending body, Rafael Nadal had to give up the tournament at the Porte d’Auteuil, symbol of his (almost) absolute monarchy on earth: 112 successes accumulated in his kingdom, for only three defeats . In 2022, at 36, the Spaniard had won his fourteenth Musketeers Cup – on one foot – seventeen years after his first coronation. This year, it was his recalcitrant hip that forced him to give up ten days before the launch of the fortnight.
An event in the tennis microcosm and beyond, even if the announcement was an open secret. Since January 18 and his elimination in the second round at the Australian Open, injured in the iliopsoas (muscles located in the pelvic region), the left-hander had not returned to the path of competition and all the lights were red.
The last time the Parisian Grand Slam took place without the presence of Nadal (injured in the foot) was in 2004: Jacques Chirac was President of the Republic and the court number 1 (destroyed in 2019 as part of the modernization of the site) still sat proudly behind the Place des Mousquetaires. So inevitably, in the aisles of the Porte d’Auteuil, this 2023 edition is not quite like the others. Near the main entrance of the tournament, the queue is always full to take a picture in front of the statue of “Rafa” fixing in steel his legendary forehand “lasso”, the work of his compatriot Jordi Diez Fernandez inaugurated by the Mallorcan itself in 2021.
“Nadal is the icon”
“This year, it’s not a real Roland-Garros, because Roland-Garros is Nadal”, insists Régis Delavictoire (it can’t be invented). As an admirer of “Rafa”, the fifties, who came on Monday May 29 from Seine-et-Marne with his son Léo, says to himself “affected” by the champion package: “Of course, there are good players, but Nadal is the icon. It is a symbol, for his culture of winning, and a model of respect and humility: he should be taken as an example in all tennis schools and in the world. » The absence of the master of the place makes ” a bit sad ” Leo: “It’s not business as usualregret the 12-year-old boy, cap and polo shirt with the logo of his champion’s equipment manufacturer, normally he is always there…”
Eighteen years that the Spaniard wrote on these courts a unique page of history in the history of tennis, and in that of sport in general. By dint, Roland-Garros and Nadal had almost ended up becoming one. ” We miss him, a Roland-Garros without him, it doesn’t have the same flavor and it’s not as exciting”, testifies Michèle Duclovel, 38, from Val-de-Marne. At his side, Rebecca Ramphul is still struggling to speak in the past: “Every year, it’s a delight to see him in the final, I kept hope he is there”, regrets the young woman of 32 years.
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