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I’m Rafael Nadal’s first French Open victim, I thought I had a chance, now I’ve made an unexpected career change after retirement

Rafael Nadal is the undisputed King of Clay and his record at the French Open is astonishing.

He has a record fourteen wins and 112 victories at Roland Garros, losing only three times.

Nadal became French Open champion for the first time in 2005Credit: Getty

That first victory came in 2005, when he was just 18 years old and marked twenty years of dominance on the red clay in Paris.

Someone had to be Nadal’s first victim and it’s a good trivia question that not many people will know.

That man was Lars Burgsmuller – a German tennis player who achieved a career high score of 65.

Burgsmuller was ranked 96th in the world at the time and, at 29, was a seasoned touring professional and thought he might have a chance.

However, Nadal was a heavy favorite for the title, having won titles in Barcelona, ​​Monte Carlo and Rome in the run-up to Roland Garros.

“I thought if I play my game, I might have a chance,” Burgsmuller told the New York Times in 2021. “Maybe I can get the win.”

He added: “Quite early on I could see he was better than me.

“At the time it was just a competition for me. I was disappointed that I lost. But when I look back now, I see that I was part of an important moment.

The German was Nadal’s very first opponent at Roland GarrosCredit: Getty

“Nadal really started that match, on that date, and I was the one he was playing against. It is a beautiful piece of history.”

Nadal won the title that year and won 13 more in subsequent years.

For Burgsmuller, he retired in 2008 and embarked on a very different life trajectory.

Instead of going into coaching or broadcasting, as many ex-professionals do, he decided to go to medical school and study radiology.

Burgsmuller retrained as a doctorCredit: Getty

Now he is Dr. Lars Burgsmuller and treats cancer patients at a hospital in Essen, Germany.

For Nadal, all focus is now on the rest of the clay season and the Olympic Games, which will take place in Paris this summer.

He reached the last 16 in Madrid, but still looks far from his best.

“I don’t know what can happen (about the French Open), but now I have four matches in Madrid under my belt,” Nadal said. “This is the reality.

“Today I was muscle tired, yes, but it’s nothing serious. I’ve endured several hours of competition at the highest possible level, and that’s the most important thing.

‘About Paris, after Rome, I will say. I understand your urgency and I would also like to have a clear picture of what is going to happen, but since I don’t have one today I can’t tell you more.

There is still doubt about Nadal’s suitability for the French OpenCredit: AFP

“I hope to play in Rome if there are no setbacks and I go there in the hope of continuing to develop.

“At tennis level, I also leave (Madrid) happier than when I arrived, although if I don’t have the confidence that my body can handle tennis, it is impossible for this to work.”

The French Open starts on Sunday, May 26 and runs until June 9.