Overall, Rafael Nadal enjoys a dominating 7-3 lead in the head-to-head record against Alexander Zverev

Fourteen-time French Open winner Rafael Nadal has been handed a nightmarish opening draw at the 2024 edition of the Roland Garros tournament, with the Spaniard slated to face world No. 4 Alexander Zverev in round one. This will be their first-ever meeting since the thrilling 2022 semifinal match, where the German was forced to retire due to an ankle twist after trailing 7-6, 6-6 in the match on Philippe Chatrier.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal takes part in a practice session during the French Open tennis tournament on Court Philippe-Chatrier at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris (AFP)

The blockbuster tie was initially scheduled for Sunday, the opening day of the 2024 French Open at Stade Roland Garros, before it was shifted to Monday. However, with no official confirmation on the time as of Saturday, Nadal and his team, according to a report in L’Equipe, put in a request to not play the match in the night session and the organisers agreed, with the 22-time Grand Slam winner scheduled for an afternoon match against Zverev (3:30 PM IST).

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Why will an afternoon match favour Rafael Nadal against Alexander Zverev?

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It will be an advantage Nadal with the French Open scheduling the popcorn round-one clash on Monday afternoon. The conditions in the day, with less humidity, will allow the ball to not get heavy, a factor that could work in Nadal’s favor. His powerful forehand, a signature move, could inflict much more damage under these conditions.

This was evident in the Madrid Masters last month, where Nadal played his first three matches in the afternoon and comfortably claimed victories in all, including one against world No. 10 Alex de Minaur. In the only match he played in the night session, Nadal lost to Jiri Lehecka in straight sets. The change of schedule was because Nadal required some rest.

However, the outcome of the match is still uncertain, and Zverev’s skills cannot be underestimated.

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