Two weeks and one day after lifting his 12 Grand Slam title Rafael Nadal has crashed out of Wimbledon, beaten by the hitherto little-known Belgian Steve Darcis.
There was a suspicion that Nadal's knee injury contributed to the defeat, but tough he developed a limp late on for most of the match it was more a case of his not appearing to trust his knee's fitness on a surface which it is hard for him to slide on.
Darcis, 29, had only won one previous match at Wimbledon, but did beat Thomas Berdych here in the Olympics.
He said: “I think it is a big shock as no-one was expecting it. Rafa did not play his best tennis, but I knew the first game on grass is always difficult and he lost early last year.”
Nadal went out to Lukas Rosol last year in the second round. This was his first opening round exit in a 35-Gland Slam career. He is also the first reigning French Open champion to go out in the first round at Wimbledon since Gustavo Kuerten in 1997.
The match lasted just shy of three hours with Darcis winning the first two sets on the tie-break, the second off which went to 10-8. Darcis, however, broke in the third set and victory seemed certain when, at 3-4 down, Nadal sprinted towards a drop shot and pulled up lame.
He battled on, at one point having a break point, but lost the game. The two-time Wimbledon champion successfully held serve to stay in the match but Darcis, working him around the court, forced a match point. He delivered an ace and fell to his knees as if he had won the tournament itself.Reuse content