The Spaniard has been the most iconic player in the event's history. He won it 14 times in the past and has a statue in front of it. No player has ever come close to being as dominant as Nadal has been here. The King of Clay is not a nickname you get by chance and he earned it. Unfortunately, this year's Roland Garros is going on without Nadal and next year's is likely going to be the final one he will ever attend as a player.
It's the end of an era, something many fans knew is coming but it always takes some time to realize it. For Paul McNamee, it happened rather quickly. After arriving in Paris, he explained on Twitter that there is no 'Rafa shadow' at the event. The atmosphere is great, the stands are packed, and there is great tennis being played and a new rising star in Alcaraz keeping people invested:
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"Being here, hitting me is a strange feeling there is no ‘Rafa’ shadow over Roland Garros as expected…it’s seamlessly filled by Alcaraz, especially given the way he dismantled Shapovalov, who had two epic matches with Nadal in Rome (winning one). What an extraordinary Spanish tag."
Many have called Alcaraz the next Nadal but he doesn't play like Nadal. He brings the same passion as he does but he's quite unique in his own way. Nobody is playing tennis with a bigger smile right now. It's a joy to watch and we'll be watching it for the next 10-15 years hopefully. Eras come and go but tennis remains. Whether it's Nadal or Alcaraz matters little, the game lives on.