Wimbledon 2012: Rafael Nadal Crashes Out to Unheralded Czech Player

Lukas Rosol has the match of his life and ousts the two-time Wimbledon champion

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Toby Melville / Reuters

Lukas Rosol watches Rafael Nadal walk away after defeating him in their second round match at Wimbledon on June 28, 2012

Last night at Wimbledon Lukas Rosol rocked the boat—and Rafael Nadal was left looking pretty dizzy.

The 26-year old Czech player, ranked 100th in the world, defeated the Spaniard 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in one of the biggest upsets in tournament history. Along the way, Rosol hit 22 aces, recorded 65 winners to Nadal’s 41, and regularly hit groundstrokes that exceeded 90 mph. To punctuate his impressive performance, he served three aces in his final game. Nadal, who won his 11th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros earlier this month, walked off the court with his head down. “I’m sorry for Rafa, but today I was somewhere else and I’m really happy for this,” the jubilant Czech said afterwards. “Still I cannot find the words. I still can’t believe it. It’s like a dream for me.”

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Prior to last night, Rosol had won a total of four Grand Slam matches. He had never contested a match in the main draw of Wimbledon, instead falling in the first round of qualifying in each of the past five years. He has never won an ATP-level tournament and his odds of winning Wimbledon were listed at 2,500-to-1 at the start of the week. Nadal, on the other hand, had not lost at this stage of a Grand Slam for seven years and had contested five of the last six Wimbledon finals. Rosol admitted after the match that his expectations reflected a battle between David and Goliath. His goal was to play three good sets: “Just don’t lose 6-0, 6-1, 6-1.”

That attitude gave him the freedom to take risks—and the second set. Nadal’s frustration became evident when he appeared to bump into Rosol deliberately during a changeover in the third set. “Yeah, it’s okay,” Rosol said after the match. “He wanted to take my concentration… I knew he would try something. I was surprised it would happen on the Centre Court at Wimbledon.” At other points, Nadal, a player known for moving slower than molasses during his changeovers, complained to the umpire that Rosol was delaying the game.

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Nadal’s responses at the press conference didn’t do much for his image, either. The world No. 2, who normally exudes humility, came off as ungenerous. When a journalist asked if Rosol was simply “too good” last night, Nadal brushed the comment aside. “Oh, c’mon. That’s too simple,” he said in response. “In the fifth, yes. Not before, no? In the fifth set he played more than unbelievable. That’s fine. Before, first three sets, I didn’t play well.”

Rosol likely benefited from the umpire’s decision to close the roof after Nadal won the fourth set. The Czech said he made the most of the 40-minute break. “After the fourth set I had pain a little bit,” he said. “I just came to the locker room and I took a shower. I was by my physio all the time.” The break appears to have robbed Nadal of his momentum. “It wasn’t great for me, but that is sport,” he said. “I was surprised, but only when I was told it would take 30 to 40 minutes to close.”

Had Nadal and Rosol followed the expected script, the Spaniard would be on course to face Britain’s Andy Murry in the semifinals. But Nadal’s early exist opens up the bottom half of the draw. The British media, who every year drone on about Murray’s chances of winning, are already getting their hopes up. “There will be no Murray semifinal heartbreak caused by Nadal, Federer or Djokovic,” a BBC sports correspondent said during the morning news. He chose his words wisely. Judging from last night’s upset, Murray’s potential disappointment could be written by a Czech.

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