Game on. Finally, we’ll have some change the final weekend of a Grand Slam, and you can thank someone named Lukas Rosol for it. This afternoon, or evening in Europe, the little-known Rosol pulled off an upset for the ages stunning World No. 2 Rafael Nadal 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in the second round at Wimbledon. And thusly ending, for a fortnight, the Big Three’s stranglehold on men’s tennis.
“You play against an inspired opponent and I am out,” Nadal said. “That’s all. It’s not a tragedy. It’s only a tennis match. At the end, that’s life. There are much more important things. Sure, I wanted to win, but I lost. That’s it.
Rosol, who few had ever heard of or even given a thought, somehow absolutely blasted Nadal off the court for much of their five set saga. The 6-foot-5 Czech bombed serves and fired his forehand every chance he could in a strategy similar to one Tomas Berdych or Robin Soderling employed to beat Nadal. Except Rosol was just better.
Nadal, as he often does, wouldn’t quit. Rafa escaped with a first set win saving multiple set points, but Rosol grabbed the next two sets with relative ease and efficiency. Rafa though, like you knew he would, came back in the fourth and seemed to regain full control of the match.
Then with the light fading and clock approaching near 9pm in London, the tournament decided to close the roof. The 45-minute or so delay may have halted the momentum Nadal had accrued and/or given a breather to Rosol who must have been winded. Or it may not have.
And when they returned it was all Rosol. The 26-year-old stole an early break in the opening game of the fifth thanks to some faulty decision making from Rafa, then just rode his blistering serve to victory pounding not one, not two but three aces to win the match with an exclamation point that was so remarkable from such an underdog in a major match.
“I am very, very disappointed,” Nadal added who was dealt his earliest Slam loss since 2005 Wimbledon. “Sure, I’m not very happy. In the end is a second round match. It’s not the semifinals or the final, so that bothers [me] more, because then you feel that you had the chance to win the title.”
Really, Rosol was in a zone unlike any I have seen in quite some time – I’m not sure anyone could have held him off once he got that final break in the fifth.
“Today I was somewhere else and I’m really happy for this,” said Rosol. “Still, I cannot find the words. I still can’t believe it. It’s like a dream for me.
“Before the last game, I was not sure if I will be shaking or not because it was the first time against Rafa and the first time also in Wimbledon Centre Court,” he added. “You never know what to expect, so it was not easy, and I survived.”
Again, credit to Rosol who had no credentials, no experience that would have led anyone to believe such a win could happen. But he climbed into that tree and Nadal couldn’t shake him out. First time on Center Court and he beats Nadal like that? Wow.
“This year, I changed and I played already at Queen’s and Eastbourne, a couple more weeks [than before],” said Rosol. “If I play on grass more, I think I can get better.”
For Rafa, it’s a tough, tough loss, even after his big triumph in Paris. Luckily he’ll be back at Wimbledon in a month for the Olympics to get rid of the sour taste, but while part of me thinks it’s a fluke another part of me doesn’t. The guy hasn’t won off clay since 2010 and there’s a reason.
“I’m not going to say in the point of my career today the only thing that going to work for me is the victory, but more or less. So I was very far to win the tournament,” Nadal said. “I just was in the second round. That’s painful, because it’s always tough to lose.”
Since Nadal was my pick to win it, now who is it? I had Nadal beating Djokovic so I guess I’ll take Novak. But Federer, who’ll at least return to No. 2 in the ranks, has played the best of anyone thus far. And the way things are going I think we’ll see another big upset. Just a hunch.
In other news, with Nadal out Andy Murray will now feel that pressure and expectation of having to take that next step at Wimbledon. Murray along with Roddick and Tsonga are the only players left in that half with any sort of Wimbledon pedigree. Andy got through a dangerous foe in Ivo Karlovic and he’ll move on to face Marcos Baghdatis on Saturday.
“Any match you just want to try to find a way to win,” said Murray said after a four set win over Ivo. “It’s not always about how you play. [I] got off to a bad start of 0/40 down, and then I broke straightaway, straight back. Then after losing that tight second set, to get that break at the beginning of the third set was important as well. So I did a good job.
“Today, he was going for huge second serves. I’ve played him before. I don’t remember him serving that big on his second serves. A lot of times he was in the high 120 [miles per hour] on the second serve. He hit a few great volleys today.”
David Ferrer continues to look good and he’ll now get Andy Roddick next. Juan Martin Del Potro is quickly gaining ground on the grass, and for the Argentine it’s Kei Nishikori in the next round.
JW Tsonga, David Goffin and Americans Brian Baker and Mardy Fish were also winners. Baker, who’s been the comeback story this summer, hasn’t lost a set. Fish, playing his first event since correcting a heart issue, needed five tough sets to eliminate British wildcard James Ward.
And in another good one, Sam Querrey and Milos Raonic were stopped after the two splits sets.
As for tomorrow, we’ll finally get seeds clashing with third round play. Federer, who’s been ultra sharp, meets Julien Benneteau, a capable Frenchman.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic draws Radek Stepanek and Richard Gasquet gets Nicolas Almagro. Fernando Verdasco-Xavier Malisse could also be a good one.
I really don’t see any big surprises Friday.
In the women’s draw, Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters and Aga Radwanska are back. Clijsters meets former finalist Vera Zvonareva while Radwanska tests Brit youngster Heather Watson.
ESPN will again have coverage tomorrow starting a 7am ET.
FRIDAY WIMBLEDON SCHEDULE
Centre Court 1:00 PM Start Time
Novak Djokovic (SRB) v. Radek Stepanek (CZE)
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) v. Heather Watson (GBR)
Roger Federer (SUI) v. Julien Benneteau (FRA)
No. 1 Court 1:00 PM Start Time
Sam Querrey (USA) v. Milos Raonic (CAN) To Finish 6-7(3) 7-6(7) 3-3
Maria Sharapova (RUS) v. Su-Wei Hsieh (TPE)
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) v. Kim Clijsters (BEL)
Nicolas Almagro (ESP) v. Richard Gasquet (FRA)
No. 2 Court 11:30 AM Start Time
Viktor Troicki (SRB) v. Juan Monaco (ARG)
Christina McHale (USA) v. Angelique Kerber (GER)
Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) v. Janko Tipsarevic (SRB)
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