Comment
0
Tweet
6
Print
RSS Feeds

Nadal loses to 135th-ranked player at Wimbledon

Monday - 6/24/2013, 6:48pm  ET

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, left, is attended to after taking a fall during her Women's first round singles match against Maria Joao Koehler of Portugal at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Monday, June 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

STEPHEN WILSON
AP Sports Writer

LONDON (AP) -- For the second straight year, Rafael Nadal is leaving Wimbledon early after a stunning loss to a little-known player ranked in the hundreds.

In one of the tournament's greatest upsets, an ailing Nadal was knocked out in straight sets Monday by 135th-ranked Steve Darcis of Belgium -- the Spaniard's first loss in the opening round of any Grand Slam event.

The free-swinging Darcis defeated the two-time champion 7-6 (4), 7-6 (8), 6-4 on Court 1, ending Nadal's 22-match winning streak and eliminating one of the Big Four of men's tennis on the very first day of the grass-court Grand Slam.

After serving an ace down the middle on match point, Darcis conceded he was as surprised as everyone.

"Nobody was expecting me to win," he said. "So I had to play a good match, relax, and enjoy the game. That's what I did."

There were no surprises for the other big names: Defending champion Roger Federer, bidding for a record eighth Wimbledon title, and second-seeded Andy Murray both won in straight sets on Centre Court.

Nadal was sidelined for seven months with a left knee injury after losing in the second round of Wimbledon last year. He seemed to be struggling physically Monday. He was unable to turn on the speed or use his legs to spring into his groundstrokes, limping and failing to run for some shots.

Nadal declined to blame any injury and gave full credit to the 29-year-old Darcis, who had never beaten a top-5 player before and has yet to go beyond the third round of any Grand Slam.

"I don't ... talk about my knee this afternoon," Nadal said. "Only thing that can say today is congratulate Steve Darcis. He played a fantastic match. Everything that I will say today about my knee is an excuse, and I don't like to put any excuse when I'm losing a match like I lost today."

Darcis, who had won only one previous match at Wimbledon, played the match of his life Monday, going for his shots and moving Nadal from corner to corner. Darcis amassed a total of 53 winners, compared with 32 for Nadal.

"Of course, Rafa didn't play his best tennis," Darcis said. "I could see it. So I took advantage of it, tried to fight. Maybe he was not in the best shape ever. Maybe he didn't play his best match. But I have to be proud of me, I think."

Darcis said he didn't know whether Nadal was injured, or was just troubled by the grass conditions.

"Not the day to talk about these kind of things," Nadal said. "I am confident that I will have a good recovery and be ready for the next tournaments."

Darcis finished the match in style, serving his 13th ace as Nadal failed to chase the ball.

Darcis is the lowest ranked player to beat Nadal at any tournament since Joachim Johansson -- ranked No. 690 -- defeated the Spaniard in 2006 in Stockholm. Gustavo Kuerten, in 1997, was the last reigning French Open champion to lose in the first round at Wimbledon.

Nadal was coming off his eighth championship at the French Open this month. But on this day he never looked like the player who has won 12 Grand Slam titles and established himself as one of the greatest players of his generation.

Last year, Nadal was ousted in the second round by 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol, a match that finished under the closed roof of Centre Court.

After that loss, Nadal took the rest of the year off to recover from the knee problem, missing the U.S. Open and Australian Open. Since returning to action this year, he had made it to the finals of all nine tournaments he entered, winning seven.

After winning the French Open, Nadal pulled out of a grass-court tuneup in Halle, Germany. He came to Wimbledon without any serious grass-court preparation.

"The opponent played well," Nadal said. "I had my chances. I didn't make it. So in grass (it's) difficult to adapt yourself, to adapt your game. When you don't have the chance to play before, I didn't have that chance this year, is tougher. I didn't find my rhythm."

Ten years after his first Wimbledon championship, Federer opened play on Centre Court as defending champion and looked right as home as he dismantled Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-3, 6-2, 6-0.

This was a grass-court clinic lasting 68 minutes. Federer had 32 winners, seven aces and just six unforced errors. He won 90 percent of the points when he put his first serve in. When his serve is clicking, Federer usually is unbeatable. On this day, he won his first 15 service points and 24 out of the first 25.

   1 2  -  Next page  >>