With the roof closed against the dark London night, an incredulous Centre Court crowd witnessed one of the great Wimbledon upsets as Lukas Rosol, a Czech ranked only No 100 in the world, played the match of his life to defeat the second seed Rafael Nadal by 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. With the match level at two sets all just before nine o'clock, the players were taken off for half an hour while the roof was closed because of the fading light.
On the resumption Rosol, playing brilliantly in only his fifth match on grass at this level, immediately took a 2-0 lead. Continuing to stun the former champion with the speed and placement of his passing shots, he then held serve three more times to take the final set just after 10 o'clock with two successive aces. It was not as though Nadal played badly, except when dropping his serve in a couple of key games. For a five-set match he made a surprisingly small number of unforced errors, but frequently found the Czech's first and even second serve too good.
There was some needle too with the Spaniard unhappy at perceived delaying tactics and Rosol claiming that at one changeover Nadal had bumped into him "to take my concentration" but had apologised.
Nadal said: "I played a great fourth set, and the break didn't help me. I was surprised because it takes 35 to 40 minutes. He came back and played unbelievable in the fifth." Nadal, due to have been Andy Murray's semi-final opponent should the Briton progress that far, had not been beaten in the first two rounds of a Grand Slam event since 2005. Yesterday he could easily have lost the first three sets. Starting slowly again, as he had done when losing the first four games to Thomaz Bellucci in the opening round, the Spaniard had to save three set points and only won a long tie-break on the 20th point.
Rosol was clearly going to be no one-set wonder. Playing a poor service game right at the start of the second set, Nadal was broken immediately and Rosol took the set 6-3 with a pair of aces. Another break early in the third set put the 2008 and 2010 champion under pressure again and Rosol deservedly had a two-one lead.
After Nadal pumped himself up and levelled by winning the fourth set, the crowd were delighted to learn that the match would be played to a finish, less so when they realised what a delay would be necessary. The roof can be closed in 10 minutes, but three times as long is always allowed for conditions to settle down. Nadal, who reached the final in his previous five Wimbledon appearances, must have wished his opponent had been given a night to stew instead of keeping his adrenaline going to such effect. Now Rosol must come down to earth to play the German Philipp Kohlschreiber, ranked No 30, who also beat Nadal, at Halle a fortnight ago. "It's like a miracle for me," the Czech said.
Nadal said: "In the fifth set he played more than unbelievable. In the first three sets I didn't play well.
"The only thing I can do is go back home and rest, and I need and deserve it. I never want to make an excuse after a match. I'm very, very disappointed. It's not a tragedy, it's only a tennis match."
Earlier, another Spaniard, David Ferrer, seeded seventh, found the French qualifer Kenny de Schepper towering almost a foot above him at 6ft 8 and pushing him hard before going down 7-6, 6-2, 6-4. In the third round Ferrer will play Andy Roddick, who followed his victory over Britain's Jamie Baker on Wednesday by beating Bjorn Phau, the 32 year-old German-Indonesian in straight sets.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga found Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez stubborn opposition in a four-set victory.
Who is Lukas Rosol? The lowdown on Nadal's conqueror
Aged 26, born in Brno in Czech Republic. He is 6ft 5in tall and weighs nearly 13 stone
Czech No 3 behind Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek. Member of Czech Davis Cup team who are through to World Group semi-finals. World No 100 in singles (reached career-high No 65 last year). Has won $879,777 in career, compared with Rafael Nadal's $50,025,798
Made Grand Slam debut in 2010 US Open, having lost in qualifying in his first 12 attempts. Reached third round of Grand Slam tournament on one previous occasion, in 2011 French Open, when he recorded only previous win against a top 10 player (Jürgen Melzer)
Made Wimbledon debut this week, having lost in first round of qualifying on his first five appearances. Victories in first two rounds here are only second time he has won back-to-back tour-level matches on grass.
Reached quarter-finals in Belgrade in best performance this year. Has played only three five-set matches in career but has won them all.