Two-time champion Rafael Nadal was eliminated in the second round of Wimbledon by the 100th-ranked player in the world, breaking the Spaniard’s streak of five consecutive finals at the All England Club.
Nadal, 26, the second seed, lost 6-7 (9-11), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 to unseeded Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic on Centre Court, where the roof was closed for the final set. Rosol, 26, is the lowest-ranked player to defeat Nadal in one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments. Nadal’s biggest upset loss until today had been to 69th-ranked Gilles Muller in the second round of Wimbledon in 2005.
“I’m not just surprised, it’s like a miracle,” Rosol, who had three aces in the final game and 22 in total, said in a televised interview. “I never expected to play like this.”
Nadal, who has 11 Grand Slam titles, won Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010. He lost in the final in 2006, 2007 and 2011, and missed the tournament in 2009 because of a knee injury.
“That’s what happens when you play against a player who is able to hit the ball very hard, hit the ball without thinking and feeling the pressure,” Nadal said in a news conference. “When an opponent wants to play like he wanted to play in the fifth, you are in his hands.”
Nadal had been trying to become the second man since tennis turned professional in 1968 to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year three times. The left-hander won both events in 2008 and 2010, while Sweden’s Bjorn Borg won them every year from 1978 to 1980.
It’s the first time since Marat Safin lost in 2002 that a male No. 2 seed has exited Wimbledon in the second round. The last second-seeded man to lose in the second round of a Grand Slam was Andy Roddick at the French Open in 2005.
Rosol has never previously reached the main draw at Wimbledon, having lost in the qualifying rounds in all five visits to the All England Club.
Nadal, who defeated top-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the final of the French Open for a men’s record seventh title in Paris, fell behind 4-1 in the first set of his opening-round match at Wimbledon before defeating Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci.
Rosol, playing in his sixth Grand Slam event, has never advanced past the third round of a major tournament. The Czech lost in the first round of the Australian Open and the second round of the French Open, the two previous Grand Slam events this year.
Just before Wimbledon, he reached the third round at Queen’s Club in London. Rosol also came into the match against Nadal having won three of his last four matches against left- handers.
Nadal struggled from the start, saving three set points before finishing off the first set in a tiebreaker when Rosol dumped a forehand into the net. Nadal asked for some of his rackets to be restrung at the end of the first set.
In the second set, Nadal quickly fell behind a service break as Rosol delivered flat ground strokes and serves of up to 133 miles per hour (214 kilometers per hour). At 5-3 down, Nadal slipped on the grass as he chased down a shot.
After taking the second set, Rosol went a break up at the start of the third as he continued to dictate play from close to the baseline with his ground strokes. Nadal hit a forehand long to hand the Czech player a two-sets-to-one lead.
As light started to fade at the start of the fourth set, Nadal set up two break points with a lob. He screamed, pumped his fists and shouted “Vamos!” as he forced Rosol into making a backhand error after a long baseline exchange to take a 4-2 lead. Nadal evened the match at two sets all with a backhand winner.
At 8:38 p.m. local time, play was halted for 45 minutes before the final set to allow the roof to close and the temperature to settle.
The momentum swung back to Rosol after the delay. He broke Nadal’s serve in the first game of the final set and didn’t falter after that, striking a 93 mph forehand winner in the fourth game and a 99 mph backhand winner in the seventh game that left Nadal shaking his head.
Serving at 4-3, Rosol produced two aces to hold at love. Serving for the biggest win of his career at 5-4, Rosol had an ace, a forehand winner and another ace to set up three match points. He sunk to the grass after he hit yet another ace to finish off the victory.
After shaking Nadal’s hand, Rosol sat in his chair and held his head in his hands as the crowd roared.
“He’s a superstar, I’m very sorry for him,” Rosol said. “I played unbelievable.”
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