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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Tuesday May 28, 2024

Before his night session match on Monday in Paris, French legend Gael Monfils needed to take a nap. But before he did that, he needed to watch the King of Clay on Chatrier.

Tennis Express

The 37-year-old, who defeated Thiago Seyboth Wild on Monday, said it was important for him to watch Nadal as he took on Alexander Zverev on Court Philippe-Chatrier for one main reason: Nadal is everybody’s legend.

“It's important, because he's our legend,” Monfils said. “He's everybody's legend. He's back. It's impossible not to watch him, impossible. When I say it's important, it's more than that. I know that I love him whatever happens.”

Nadal showed vastly improved form, but still was defeated by Zverev, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3, on Monday. After the match he told the crowd in an emotional speech that he wasn't sure if he had played his last match at Roland-Garros.

“The amount of feelings that I had on this amazing court during all my tennis career is just unbelievable,” Nadal said. “I never dreamed I would be here at almost 38 years old, with all the success I had here, winning so many times – it is something that I never dreamt of.

“For me it’s difficult to say what will happen in the future. It’s a big percentage that I won’t be back at Roland-Garros, but I can’t say 100 percent. I enjoy playing here, I like traveling with the family, and my body is feeling a little bit better than it did two months ago.”

Monfils said that he was happy to see the King of Clay playing so well in Paris, and he believes that the Spaniard could be a factor at the Olympic Games in Paris this summer.

“When I say it's important, it's because we all respect him so much, even though we are friends with him. He is the king of clay courts. He's back, he's playing. It's really important to watch.

Monfils, who earned his 122nd Grand Slam singles win to take over the all-time lead for French players on Monday, was particularly impressed with Nadal’s forehand.

“I was happy because he was hitting a good forehand,” he said, hinting that better days are ahead for Nadal. “He's not over. He was being pushed, but he put a good forehand in. But maybe in two months...

‘Well, I thought it was fantastic to watch. I was happy to watch him.”

And he credited Zverev for having the mental toughness to close out the match in straight sets against a version of Nadal that would have defeated most players in the draw.

“Well done to him,” he said. “Because today Rafa, what Rafa showed us today, well, you know, he would beat so many on the draw, so many."

Zverev was impressed by Nadal’s improvements over the last several weeks as well.

“Obviously there is uncertainty whether he's going to come back and play next year,” he said. “He's definitely going to be back for the Olympics. But generally, at Roland Garros, obviously there are uncertainties.

“I think the improvement he's made over the past few months and just the difference in level that he's played today compared to his last tournaments was unbelievable. I really felt like it was a very good match.”