Wimbledon: Giant-killer Lukas Rosol out of tournament
Somewhere in Manacor, a former Wimbledon champion is muttering darkly. “Maldito Kohlschreiber,” he chunters (the exact translation is not suitable for publication in a family newspaper but you get the general drift).
It was Philipp Kohlschreiber who ruined Rafael Nadal’s Wimbledon preparations by knocking him out of the third round in Halle and it is Kohlschreiber who now sits happily in Nadal’s spot in the fourth round in SW19.
All the German had to do yesterday was stand on the other side of the net as Lukas Rosol, the man who caused the biggest Wimbledon upset in 25 years by beating Nadal on Thursday night, crashed and burned 6-2, 6-3, 7-6.
Backing up a big win is the hardest task on tour. To raise your game against one of the sport’s true greats, and do it on a main show court, takes talent but it is hardly difficult. But having sniffed in the rarefied air of Centre Court and basked in the television spotlight, it is an awfully big ask to motivate yourself to the same level to play a fellow journeyman on an outside court.
Absolutely everyone could see Rosol’s fall coming, with Nadal leading the chorus of doubters as he left the All England Club. “Today he played great,” the former champion said. “He played special. Sure, if he played the way he played the fifth set, you can win against everybody. But I think everybody who follows tennis knows that that’s very difficult to do every day.”
As soon as the order of play was announced on Friday night, the sages nodded. Court 12. Oh dear. It is a show court, but it is a show court far removed from the heart of the All England Club. Out on Court 12, people peer over the backstop between games, they chatter away regardless of the action on court and they swop sandwiches and glasses of tepid sparkling wine. “Oh, who’s that,” a voice asked as Rosol was having his backside kicked in the first set. “It is! It’s Rissole.”
And Rissole was fried. All that he had tried against Nadal on that magical evening failed miserably against the neat and tidy Kohlschreiber. The thundering serve that had whistled past the Spaniard’s racket on 22 occasions for clean aces kept coming back with depressing regularity; the groundstrokes that had pasted the lines and cracked the corners were sailing wildly beyond the baseline and into the tramlines.
To those whose one and only sight of Rosol came on Thursday, this came as a huge surprise; to those who have watched him slog around the Challenger circuit for the past eight years, this was business as usual.
The muscular, aggressive game that so startled Nadal is the one that Rosol always uses – it is just that, usually, it does not work. When everything clicks into place, he is a monster in tennis whites but, for the most part, he is a big bloke with a flailing forehand. Yesterday, in the swirling wind and out in the boondocks, he was the latter.
“Of course, the atmosphere was really different, but still cannot be every match atmosphere like this two days ago,” Rosol said without any bitterness or regret. “Today was little bit different conditions than previous match, was windy. He had probably more power than me.
“But what can I do? I try my best. I was trying couple ways, but I didn’t find a good way to win today.”
The star of 48 hours before had tried desperately hard to ignore the media circus that had surrounded him and just focus on being himself, on being Lukas Rosol from Brno, the world No.100. Unfortunately, he was a little too successful in that endeavour and, reverting to type, he could not cope with the experience and nous of the world No.30.
“It was good feeling, you know, [the celebrity status]” he said. “But still I have to think about next rounds. I was thinking to open the eyes again and play good tennis. I was really like concentrate for today but he was playing too good today.”
Kohlschreiber, who has made a career out of seeing an opportunity and carefully sidestepping it, did exactly what was required: he was ordered, controlled and brutally efficient. In the first two sets, he made just the one unforced error and racked up only five overall.
“Every time if he hit a very strong ball, I tried to slice it back, keep it short,” an extremely happy Kohlschreiber said. “Everything I saw against Nadal, I figured out I think the perfect tactic. Obviously I played a very, very good match today.”
A good match, yes, but not good enough to beat Rafael Nadal who, by rights, ought to be planning his second week campaign in SW19.
Instead there is that muttering from Manacor: “Maldito Kohlschreiber.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 12 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: South east
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: West