STEVE Darcis probably thought he would be taking a flight back to Belgium yesterday morning but, instead, the world No 135 was revelling in the Wimbledon spotlight after his stunning defeat of Rafa Nadal.
Precious little was known about the 29-year-old from Liege until he turned tennis logic on its head by defeating the twice former champion in straight sets in the first round.
While journalists scrambled around for more information on the man nicknamed “Shark”, the fall-out from Nadal’s only defeat in the first round of the 35 grand slams he has contested was still reverberating around the All England Club grounds.
With Nadal was heading back to Mallorca to pick over the bones of his humbling loss, however, Darcis was holding court on a media balcony as television cameras swarmed around him.
Despite a win over Czech Tomas Berdych at last year’s Olympics, it is safe to say he could have walked through the grounds unnoticed 24 hours earlier.
Life has taken an unexpected turn for the recent father though after his 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 defeat of Nadal. “I’m now starting to realise how big a win it was,” Darcis, whose ranking peaked at 44 in 2008, told the BBC as spectators walking below stopped to point at the man who knocked out Rafa. “I had many texts and messages after the win, which was really nice. My Twitter followers jumped from 2,000 to 5,000.”
There was to be no partying, though, as it was straight back down to business for the son of a tennis coach who sports a shark tattoo on his arm and supports Belgian football team Anderlecht.
With Pole Lukasz Kubot awaiting in the second round, Darcis hopes to avoid the fate of Lukas Rosol who also stunned Nadal last year but lost his next match in feeble fashion. “My next match is tomorrow [Wednesday] so I have to focus already,” he said.
Impressive as his victory was, Nadal looked a pale imitation of the man who claimed an eighth French Open title earlier this month and, while making no excuses afterwards, he looked hampered in his movement against Darcis.
Former Wimbledon great Boris Becker noted Nadal’s reluctance to put pressure on his suspect left knee while hitting backhands. He even suggested Nadal should have perhaps missed the tournament, especially as he had pulled out of the Halle warm-up event the week before and arrived in London with little preparation on the slickest of surfaces. “Nadal has come back from injury so strongly this year but he was playing mainly on clay,” Becker said. “I almost thought that he should contemplate not playing [Wimbledon] this year.”