It was Lukas Rosol and not Rafael Nadal who looked like a two-time Wimbledon champion used to pummeling opponents into submission on tennis' biggest stage.
It was Lukas Rosol and not Rafael Nadal who looked like a two-time Wimbledon champion used to pummeling opponents into submission on tennis’ biggest stage.
It was Rosol, and not Nadal, who sprinted to and from his chair during changeovers like he had a never-ending supply of energy, pumped his fist and shouted to his entourage in the player’s box. And it was the 100th-ranked, little-known Czech player making his first Wimbledon appearance – and not the 11-time Grand Slam winner – who got better and stronger as the second-round match on Centre Court progressed into the night.
He hit ace after ace to complete one of the biggest upsets tennis has seen in years.
As surprising as Rosol’s five-set victory over Nadal was, the manner in which he completed it Thursday was perhaps equally stunning.
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“In the fifth set he played more than unbelievable,” Nadal said.
He wasn’t the only one who struggled to believe what they were seeing.
Rosol, who had lost in qualifying for Wimbledon in each of the last five years, simply outclassed Nadal with his powerful serving and booming ground strokes. He hit cross-court backhand winners that measured 99 mph, he stepped up to whip scorching forehand returns, and he served so well that Nadal hardly tried to get to them by the final game. The last one he hit was his 22nd, and it wrapped up a 6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory that no one had seen coming.
Least of all Rosol himself.
“I’m not just surprised; it’s like a miracle for me,” he said. “Like just some B team in Czech Republic can beat Real Madrid (in) soccer.”
But Rosol fully earned the win, bouncing back from wasting three set points in the first set to win the next two. After Nadal leveled the match in the fourth, organizers then decided to slide the retractable roof out over Centre Court to allow the match to finish under the lights. That forced a 45-minute break that had Nadal agitated, but seemingly just made Rosol stronger.
He came out and broke Nadal in the first game, and never gave the Spaniard a chance to get back into the match.
“I was playing well in the fourth,” Nadal said. “I think I played a great fourth set. Sure the stop this time didn’t help me. That’s the sport.”
Nadal had previously been upset about Rosol’s behavior as he was preparing to return the Spaniard’s serve, and complained about it to the chair umpire during one changeover in the third set. Two games later, Nadal bumped into Rosol – and didn’t acknowledge the contact – as they walked to their chairs for a break.
Rosol said he thought Nadal was simply trying to mess up his concentration.
“I was surprised that he can do it on the Centre Court at Wimbledon,” Rosol said. “It’s like something wrong. … He hit me, and then three times he apologized. And I say, OK.”
And he kept his cool.
Rosol won his final 13 service points, seven with aces.
“Maybe it’s once in life you can play like this against Rafael Nadal on Centre Court and you can win against him,” Rosol said. “You know, it’s not easy. I never expect it can happen, something like this.”
It was a result that turned all other matches Thursday into afterthoughts.
Top-ranked Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and defending champion Petra Kvitova all won on the women’s side, and Andy Murray might prove to be the biggest beneficiary of Nadal’s loss. The two were set to face each other in the semifinals, but Murray’s side of the draw now looks wide open as he tries to become the first British man since 1936 to win the grass-court Grand Slam.
Murray beat Ivo Karlovic 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (4) on Centre Court in the match before Nadal’s. Karlovic then accused the line judges of favoring Murray after calling a number of foot-faults against the Croat – the type of comments that might have dominated headlines until Rosol’s upset win.
Nadal won a record seventh French Open championship this month and was bidding for his third title at Wimbledon, where he was runner-up last year to Novak Djokovic.
He had reached the final in each of his last five Wimbledons – having skipped the 2009 tournament because of injury – and hadn’t lost this early in a Grand Slam since 2005.
“Well, that’s sport. You win, you lose,” Nadal said. “Last four months were great for me. Was probably one of the best four months of my career, playing unbelievable in the clay court season. You arrive here, and a little bit of everything. You play against an inspired opponent, and I am out. That’s all. Is not a tragedy. Is only a tennis match.”