IT WAS another Steve Darcis moment. Or another Lukas Rosol moment (worryingly, the list is getting longer). Dustin Brown blasted Rafael Nadal off the Centre Court last night, removing the former champion in the second round in four unbelievable sets.
But, when Darcis dismissed Nadal in the first round in 2013, and Rosol did likewise in the second round in 2012, Nadal’s knees were shot to pieces. This year, Nadal was pain-free, he was fit but he was just beaten 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, fair and square. Brown, the world No 102, was flamboyant, his winners were like fireworks and for more than two and a half hours, he was quite simply fabulous.
“First of all, I was trying to play,” Brown said. “Everyone tells you play point by point, play point by point. Definitely it was not that easy. I would say it was not easy, because playing him is not easy. I was playing really well and trying to keep that together for such a long time, and trying not to think about what just happened out there and what I need to keep doing to win the match. It was great to be able to do that today and do it for that long.”
This latest loss leaves a large stain on Nadal’s record. He has now lost to players ranked No 100 or lower in the last four years. The days of him winning two titles and making five consecutive appearances in the final are just distant memories.
“Is obvious that 2012 and 2013, I was not competitive,” he said. “Too much problems on my knees. Last year and this year, no problems at all with my knees. So I was ready to compete. I lost. I don’t know if I will be back to the level of 2008 or 2010 or 2007 or 2006 or ’11.”
Brown was everything Nadal did not want to see on the Centre Court. For a man struggling to find his game and dredge up some shred of confidence in a miserable year, Brown was… well, he was just as he always is – just Dustin. Unconventional in every respect in the blazered world of Wimbledon, the German (by way of Jamaica) was serving howitzers, he was volleying, he was serving and volleying (99 times to Nadal’s one attempt) and he was half-volleying. He rushed to the net 85 times and won 49 points there and he was inventing shots that not only looked technically suspect but physically impossible. He never gave Nadal the same ball twice and the Spaniard, desperate to get some rhythm and some momentum, had nothing to work with.
The former champion ought to have known what was coming to him – Brown beat him on grass in Halle last year – but he could still find no answer to the whizz-bangs and firecrackers that were flying from the German’s racket. Brown only knows how to play one way and grass is the surface upon which that one way works best. He may spend much of his life trudging around in the shadows of the main tour but put him on a fast court and he takes off.
“This obviously is a surface that makes it easier to play my type of game that I want to play,” he said.
“On that given day, you have to put it together. But that doesn’t mean that I will play him next time and it will happen again, no matter if it’s grass or any other surface or even if we would come up with a surface that would be faster.
“On this surface, when I go out there, obviously I’m confident that I can play my game.
Obviously I am not unbeatable on this surface, but it comes more natural playing on this, especially with my type of game. I know that I can play really well on this.”
Standing 6ft 5in, with dreadlocks half-way down his back and with an image of his father, Leroy, tattooed on his ribcage, Brown is not a run-of-the-mill journeyman. His mother Inge is German and Leroy is Jamaican; he was born in Germany. At the age of 12 he moved to Jamaica but in 2010, he adopted German nationality and in his early years as a professional lived in a camper van as he trekked around the European tour.
Nicknamed “Dreddy” because of his hair, the 30-year-old is one of a kind on tour and now faces Viktor Troicki, the world No 24. On paper, that should be an easier task than beating Nadal but backing up such a huge win is often the downfall of the giant-killers. But with Brown, you just never know.