Wimbledon 2014: Rafael Nadal ensures lightning doesn't striker twice against Lukas Rosol, but only after early scare

The world number one was a point away from going two sets down


For a set and a half at least Rafael Nadal understood what it must be like to face himself, each point a crisis, each ball a bullet with his name on it. Lukas Rosol’s was the kind of unfathomable performance that used so to enrage Sir Alex Ferguson, the sight of a Manchester United red shirt the signal to raise commitment and effort in some opponents to a level way above the Saturday norm.

Rosol is a repeat offender, his victory over Nadal on this court two years ago a reverse that ruptured the first week of the tournament. Officials were mobilised to administer first aid and distribute emergency blankets to Centre Court purists unable to cope with a repeat.

It seems incredible that Nadal should be holding on a second time waiting for a storm to blow out on the other side of the net. Rosol, a man who disappears between meetings with Nadal, was just impenetrable on serve. And on return he had his opponent on his heels far too often for the comfort of loyal Nadalistas suffering flashbacks to the 20 aces and three score clean winners Rosol unleashed in that first encounter.

“If he plays well, it is difficult for everybody, not just me,” Nadal said with a raised eyebrow that questioned why he doesn’t raise a lick more often. “The players who are able to serve 130 miles, good first serve, good second serve, and hit the ball that quick with his forehand and his backhand, especially on this kind of surface, will be dangerous for everybody. When you play against players that really decided to play every shot full power then you are in trouble.”


As it was, Nadal fought back to win 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4.

He opened with a service game to love, but by increments his opponent crunched his intent, catching Nadal increasingly cold on the baseline with the power of his returns. The fidget count rocketed. Nadal pulled at his shorts, front and back, his shirt at the shoulder, right and left, and went around the perimeter of his head adjusting hair and headband. None of it had any bearing on the pace and accuracy of the ball coming back.

Rosol is made for grass. Tall with a big serve and, on days like this, an intuitive feel for the dimensions of a court. Nadal’s defences held out until the ninth game and Rosol converted the break by serving out for the set.

So for the second match in succession Nadal found himself a set down. In the first round against Martin Klizan, the sense of alarm quickly passed. Here it deepened, with Rosol the first to strike in the second set, breaking Nadal to love with an imperious cross-court backhand to lead 3-2.

The complexion of the match had changed. Rosol had something to lose, and the prospect of doing just that set off in Nadal the kind of primal response that defines him. For the first time Rosol began to feel the weight of what might be and it slowed him.

Sensing his opponent tightening on serve, Nadal fashioned his first break points of the match to level in the eighth game. Uncle Toni was on his feet in the family section screaming “vamos” in triplicate. The set would go to a tiebreak and Nadal was required to save a set point with a brilliant forehand winner before taking it when Rosol double-faulted into the net.

Nadal identified the set point saved as the deal- breaker, the moment his opponent began to leak resolve, and his own stature to reveal itself in all its power and its glory. “The difference maybe is one point. Maybe if I lose that set point in the second set, if that forehand down the line went out, maybe I will be here with a loss.

“But that’s sport. That forehand was perfect for that moment. It is true that even if I was losing, I was fighting for every ball, mentally, physically. The positive thing about tennis, I was able to find solutions.”

The pre-match narrative invited us to make much of the defeat two years ago, and wrap around the return a sense of significance Nadal insists just wasn’t there. He claimed that this was just another engagement. Maybe that is why he is able to do what he does and we observe in a state of wonder.

“When I am playing the match today, I am not thinking about the match two years ago. I am thinking what I have to do to win the next point in the match,” he said. “What happened happened. That’s it. We already congratulate him for two years ago. Today is another history, another story. I needed to find the solution. Finally I did.”

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star