Wimbledon 2013: Defeat for weary Rafael Nadal against Steve Darcis was all too predictable

The Spaniard lost in the first round having just won the French Open

Some observers might have been tempted to rank Rafael Nadal's defeat on Monday alongside some of the other big shocks of recent decades – Boris Becker's second-round loss to Peter Doohan as he chased a third successive Wimbledon title in 1987 and Lleyton Hewitt's first-round defeat as defending champion to Ivo Karlovic in 2003 come immediately to mind – but the truth is the Spaniard's collision on Court One was an accident waiting to happen.

In the Roland Garros interview room 16 days ago, after Nadal's stupendous victory at the French Open, it was possible to sense how much the effort had taken out of him. With weariness in his eyes, the king of clay talked slowly and deliberately about his achievement, but said he was pulling out of his Wimbledon warm-up tournament in Germany to assess his fitness.

Nadal himself has demonstrated before that doing the French Open-Wimbledon double is by no means impossible, but after all he has gone through in the last year it was clear that the Spaniard would struggle to peak again so soon. He does not need to prove to anyone what a fine grass-court player he is, but in the last two years he has won just two matches on the sport's most challenging surface.

This year the effort of playing Wimbledon with less than a week's wear on his grass-court shoes was just too much, especially after his super-human efforts in the last five months.

Nursing the latest problem with his troublesome knees, Nadal had not hit a ball in anger for seven months when he returned to competition in February. His subsequent run – seven titles from nine tournaments and runner-up in the other two – almost defied belief.

Asked about his preparations for Wimbledon, Nadal said: "I arrived here on Tuesday. Before that I was working at home in the gym and trying to do the right things to recover my body from a very long and successful run of tournaments.

"On grass it is difficult to adapt yourself, to adapt your game. When you don't have the chance to play before [Wimbledon] – and I didn't have that chance this year – it is tougher. I didn't find my rhythm.

"The only thing I can say I can do is keep working hard and keep giving myself chances with my game on this surface. I think and I hope to have a few more years to play here and to play at the right level. I was not able to play great this year or last year. That's obvious. But I'm going to try."

Characteristically, Nadal refused to blame his physical condition for his straight-sets defeat to Steve Darcis, but it was clear that he was well below his best.

The Spaniard was sorely missed when his defeat to Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon last year proved to be his last appearance of the season and it can only be hoped that history will not be repeated. Nadal, who brings more excitement to the court than any other modern-day player, said he expects to be back on court soon, but he kept saying that last year as he pulled out of one tournament after another.

The Spaniard has long complained that the tournament schedule is too demanding and that players have to compete in too many tournaments. Wimbledon's decision to move back a week in the calendar from 2015, creating a three-week gap after the French Open, cannot come soon enough for him.

Nevertheless, Nadal is always one to put defeats in perspective. "It's tough losing in the first round, but the tour continues and life continues," he said. Yes, the tour will continue, but as long as Nadal is missing it will be a poorer place.

 



Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada