Wimbledon 2015: Dustin Brown knocks Rafael Nadal out of the championship

It was an ace, in the end that called Nadal to the net for a shake of hands

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The long and luminous histories that will be written of one of the brightest stars in the sporting firmament will not have cause to dwell too long on this second round Wimbledon defeat to a hard-hitting, campervan-driving German Rastafarian, but it will cause a quite extraordinary statistic to leap from the page for evermore.

After five consecutive Wimbledon finals from 2006 to 2011, excusing 2009 in which he did not compete, Rafael Nadal has now exited the tournament to four consecutive opponents from outside of tennis’s top 100.

For Dustin Brown, it was “the best day of my life so far.” For his opponent, who knows so much of greater days, it was, he said, “not the end.”

“It is a sad moment,” Nadal said. “But life continues. My career, too. I have to keep going, to keep working.

“I don't know if I will ever be back to the level of 2008 or 10 or 07 or 06 or 11.

You know, at the end of the day, today I lost. I am a good loser. When I am not that good, I always accept it. Don't forget, I played five finals here. I don't know how many players have done that.”

The final match on Centre Court had exploded into life, Brown taking both his opponent and the packed crowd by breathless surprise, breaking the Nadal serve in only the second game, rushing to the corner of the net, leaping and flashing his racquet across his body as though it were a Samurai sword, tearing the ball fast and low across the court for the kind of winner no opponent can quickly forget.

It will go down, of course, as the game of his life, but even he, a 30-year-old qualifier from the Challengers tour did not in the end need to be at the peak of his powers to extinguish one the most brilliant lights in the history of the game. It was the Spaniard, not his opponent, who had dimmed the switch, losing a first set that had been a fine contest, winning the second, but handing over the rest in a litany of unforced errors.


Brown was born in Germany to a Jamaican father and German mother, grew up in both nations and has represented both. That he moved around Centre Court with a languid Caribbean air, but fired the ball with frighteningly Teutonic power and precision is probably only coincidence. “I am the way I am,” he said. “I've been like this all my life.”

What thoughts swirl in the mind of a relentless champion when the young pretender is older than you are? It has happened before. Brown is 30, Nadal 29. The age difference the same as when a certain Lukas Rosol appeared possessed by a higher power when causing one of the game’s great upsets at this stage here three years ago. The Spaniard may wonder what he has done to deserve this emerging trope of nameless players choosing the same tournament, the same hallowed court - and the same unfortunate opponent - suddenly to rise to the match of their lives.

But in the encircling glow of the evening, Nadal was a shadow of his old warrior self. Those trademark unreturnable drives from the back of the court, the searing missiles homing in on the corner, too often they missed their mark, and they came back with interest.

For a brief while in the second set Nadal, while still far from his best, had the measure of his opponent. A solitary break of serve was enough to hand him a set he deserved to win, just.

But if the first set was taken off him in a blaze of intent, the third was a tale of self-inflicted woe, of a widening of cracks. For the first time all day the sky had turned cloudless, but there was an unmistakable air of decline. Two consecutive double faults on his own serve gave Brown a break point, from having been advantage down, without even having to hit the ball. He took it.

Many a question has been raised over the sustainability of the Spaniard’s punishing style, of a ferocity that has never been seen before. They will be asked again now. Nadal would also not be the first sporting prodigy, having become the fully formed genius while still in his teenage years, to find his powers wane at an age when others peak.

Whether Nadal can return to anything like his old heights is something only his own mind and body can know with any certainty. But if it was here against Federer, in 2008, the finest match in tennis history, that will come to mark the summit of his greatness, there can be no moment in the long years since that he has descended to so low an altitude on the mountainside of his own formidable achievements.