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Wimbledon: Rosol outguns Nadal in five thrilling sets under roof

Rafael Nadal leaves court after defeat to Czech Republic's Lukas Rosol. Picture: Getty

Rafael Nadal leaves court after defeat to Czech Republic's Lukas Rosol. Picture: Getty

  • by ALAN PATTULLO
 

ANDY Murray had taken care of his own business with a win in four sets over Ivo Karlovic earlier in the day but what could prove just as significant a result for the Scot occurred beneath the roof at just after 10pm last night, when the little known Lukas Rosol sent Rafa Nadal tumbling out of Wimbledon with a victory in five absorbing sets, 6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

For it to have consequence for Murray he will have to reach the semi-finals, where he had been due to meet Nadal, the obvious obstacle in his half of the draw. But never mind what it meant for home hopes of a Wimbledon victory, this was a result to celebrate to the rafters at Centre Court, where the roof had nearly been lifted off again when the 26-year-old Rosol, the world No 100 from the Czech Republic, blasted down his third ace of a scintillating final game to earn a third round meeting with Phiipp Kohlshreiber from Germany.

It is one of the most surprising results in Wimbledon history, and rivals seven-time champion Pete Sampras’s defeat to the 146th ranked George Bastl in 2002, and defending champion Boris Becker’s loss to Peter Doohan in 1987. Nadal had been bidding to become only the second man in the Open Era to win the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double on three occasions. He hasn’t lost in the second round of a Grand Slam since 2005 and is a two-times champion at Wimbledon.

Yet he lost here to a man who has fallen in the first round of qualifying for Wimbledon for the past five years. Controversy added some extra spice to the late night drama, with Nadal having expressed disappointment on being told that there would be a break of 30 minutes to close the roof, with the light on Centre Court fading. He had just got back into the match by breaking twice to win the fourth set and could have done without what became a 45-minute interruption. The match eventually finished at shortly after 10pm. There was also an incident when Nadal bumped into Rosol at a changeover in the third set.

“I was surprised because it takes 30-35 minutes to close the roof,” said Nadal, who explained that he was not complaining about the decision to close it, only that it took so long. I thought it would only be five or ten minutes. That is the only thing.”

“Anything I say now will sound like an excuse,” he added. “It wasn’t the best one [decision] for me. But it is what it is. I have to accept that he came back and played unbelievably.”

Even Nadal didnt know much about the man who had just handed him his most painful defeat.

“How old is he?” he asked, when a reporter wondered whether he thought Rosol might now go far in the tournament. When told the victor was 26, he said: “Well, he hasn’t got very far before.” The Spaniard added: “In the fifth set he played more than unbelievable. In the first three sets I didn’t play well. I never want to make an excuse after a match.”

He added that he “wished Rosol all the best” in the next round.

If his initial comments had seemed ungracious, his actions suggested otherwise. Nadal is a great champion and allowed Rosol to soak up his moment of glory. Rosol even looked to the heavens before he prepared to take his final serve, having forgotten, it seemed, that the roof had been pulled across, and he was only looking towards grey steel for inspiration. But after he sent down a match-winning ace, he lay on the ground and then threw his racket into the net. Nadal fetched it for him. The Spaniard then still signed autographs as he left the court.

As for Rosol, he was still in a dreamland when he met reporters late last night. “I am sorry for Rafa, but today I was somewhere else. I still can’t believe it. It is a miracle for me – I never expected this. There are so many emotions. He is a superstar but I played unbelievable today. I hope I can play one more match like this.”

 

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