Wimbledon 2013: Rafa Nadal crashes out after shock straight sets first round defeat by unseeded Belgian Steve Darcis
Spaniard in first-ever defeat in the first round of a Grand Slam
Tuesday 25 June 2013
Rafael Nadal went out of a grand slam in the opening round for the first time in his career today as his Wimbledon agony continued against Steve Darcis.
The 12-time major champion, fresh from winning a record eighth French Open just two weeks ago, returned to the All England Club hoping to make amends for last year's second-round exit to Lukas Rosol, but was unable to make amends as he was beaten 7-6 (7/4) 7-6 (10/8) 6-4.
That shock loss to Rosol was validated by the seven months he subsequently missed through a recurrence of his long-standing knee injury.
And although Darcis - a Belgian ranked at 135th in the world - played the match of his life, Nadal did seem to be troubled again today.
Nadal, 27, looked unable to move off his left leg, with his knee taped up, and struggled to plant his weight down to hit his forehand.
Being bandaged in action is not uncommon for him, though, and since returning to the tour after seven months out he has made the final of all nine tournaments he has entered - winning seven - making this breakdown all the more surprising.
However it was his first competitive appearance on grass since the Rosol loss and with movement restricted against an opponent who rarely missed with a raft of flat and deep ground strokes, defeat was perhaps almost inevitable.
Injured or not, Nadal's name is a scalp for Darcis, who has never made it past the third round of a slam and has not won a tournament since March 2008.
But this was his day and he made sure he cashed in, becoming the lowest-ranked player Nadal has lost to since he was beaten by Joachim Johansson in 2006.
With some bookmakers pricing him at 100/1 for the match, Darcis may not have been the only one to have a good day, and from the word go he looked the better player, winning but failing to take four opening-set break points.
There would be no way out for Nadal in the 11th game, though, with a wild forehand costing him his serve for the first time. Although he broke back immediately, he was comprehensively outplayed in the tie-break.
The pattern continued deep into the second set. Nadal had one chance of a break put passed it up in the third, with Darcis continually finding incredible depth with the flattest of shots, leaving the Spaniard looking for a way out of trouble.
He managed to conjure one in the 11th game - just as Darcis had in the opener - and this time played it perfectly. But just like in the first, a break-back was immediate as Nadal allowed Darcis to secure a second tie-break. That went the same way too, with Nadal saving four set points and then passing up one of his own before pounding a forehand way over the baseline.
It was at this point that Nadal's lack of movement was starting to become glaringly obvious and he conceded his serve at the start of the third set with barely a whimper, and with a game advantage, Darcis moved forward with even more confidence.
He did offer Nadal a route back in with a break point in the eighth game but it was squandered, and as the match came to a close Darcis displayed nerves of steel, seeing out the triumph with an ace.
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
musicPolice chief rejects rappers' claims that his work is as dangerous as law enforcement or military service
comedy'Fresh Meat' star sees off stiff competition from Alan Carr, David Mitchell, Graham Norton, Lee Mack and Sarah Millican to win top prize
Beatles rush out 'bootleg' album to defy EU copyright law
healthJames Bond's alcohol consumption puts him at 'high risk' of cirrhosis, tremors... and impotence
Harvey Weinstein reveals his secret weapon on-set
Now that an oil trader's drinking has got him sacked, will we all have to make do with an afternoon latte?
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Idris Elba get nods for Best Actor, which no black Brit has ever won
Geoffrey Macnab reviews The Desolation of Smaug - the meat in Peter Jackson's Hobbit sandwich
peopleWhat advice would David Cameron give to his younger self?
World Cup 2014: Football Manager developers predict the team of the tournament - but which England player makes it into the XI?
Man cycles down water slide in incredible stunt video
Transfer news: Manchester United step up chase for Internazionale midfielder Fredy Guarin - reports
Manchester City should have known rules in Bayern Munich match, says Rafa Benitez
Champions League last 16 draw 2013: Who could Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United meet?
- 1 French café starts charging extra to rude customers
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Australia incest case: Deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding
- 4 Physicists discover 'clearest evidence yet' that the Universe is a hologram
- 5 Fox News presenter tells viewers it is a 'fact' that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white