By Romi Cvitkovic
Spanish tennis player and world No. 2 Rafael Nadal has equaled his worse ever defeat at the Wimbledon Championships as he lost to world No. 100, Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic, in the second round of the Wimbledon Championships, 6-7(11), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
From the first game of the match, it was clear that Rosol would not be intimidated by two-time Wimbledon champion Nadal, as he fired an ace and two back-to-back forehand winners to open play and hold serve. Nadal responded by winning the next game with two aces. Rosol then held serve at love, but was broken in the fourth game, giving Nadal the slight edge which he usually runs with. But not today.
The Spaniard sprayed a few forehands long giving Rosol the opportunity to break back which he did and it was back on serve at 3-all. The rallies continued into a tiebreak with Rosol serving like a magician and Nadal struggling to find balance in his forehand, until Nadal finally broke free at 9-all to take the first set tiebreak at 11-9.
Nadal instantly dropped his serve with a double-fault at the start of the second set and that is all Rosol needed to secure a 6-4 comeback. All of a sudden, it was the Czech player dictating play and forcing Nadal into errors with his depth of hitting.
The third game was much of the same, with Rosol breaking Nadal to go up 3-1. Nadal became visibly frustrated complaining to the chair umpire about Rosol’s pre-serve movements and noises, which manifested itself in a shoulder dip between the two players during the following changeover. A few small hiccups for Rosol that have him stretching for balls and sending them long could have easily derailed his momentum, but he held strong to take the third set, 6-4.
With many watching stunned, it became difficult to decipher between who was world No. 2 and world No. 100, but Nadal quieted the questioning — at least temporarily in the fourth set. Nadal finally took hold of the rallies, winning two break points, while Rosol became tentative and a bit bewildered. The Czech still held his own, but didn’t force his serve as much and quickly went down 2-6 to force a deciding fifth set.
Due to poor lighting at two sets a piece, play was halted for 45 minutes in order to close the roof on Centre Court, with Nadal scowling at the tournament officials presumably disappointed at breaking his momentum.
Serving to start the final set, Nadal shanked a backhand on the first point and was broken when he failed to put away an overhead. Not overcome with emotion from this impending career-defining victory, Rosol fired 20 winners in the final game. Nothing could have prepared the Czech for what was about to happen. Up 5-4 in the decider, Rosol not only fired three aces, but sealed the match with an ace, instantly falling to his knees, arms outstretched in warrior mode.
Getting to know Lukas Rosol
At 26-years-old, Rosol is a relative unknown in tennis, mostly playing at the ATP Challenger level and in only his 6th Grand Slam appearance. His best Slam performance was at 2011 Roland Garros where he reached the third round as a qualifier by beating his first Top 10 ranked player, Jurgen Melzer in the second round. By beating Nadal today, it is not only his second Top 10 victory, but also the 4th time he has beaten a left-handed player out of five attempts.
Rosol’s win today marks only the second time he has won back-to-back Tour-level matches on grass after reaching the third round at Queen’s Club two weeks ago.
Rosol is also still alive in men’s doubles with partner Mikhail Kukushkin as they defeated No. 13 seed Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins in the first round on Wednesday.
Incidentally, Nadal will have to continue to wait for his next non-clay title, as he has not won a title on a surface other than clay since October 2010, when he won in Tokyo.