The narrow path between the umpire's chair and the net post leads to some awkward encounters when two players try to squeeze by at the same time. Rafael Nadal usually avoids that potential dance by letting his opponents walk through first. While struggling with relative unknown Lukas Rosol on Thursday, Nadal uncharacteristically went first, then dipped his shoulder into his opponent as he brushed past him.
Que pasa, Rafa?
Nadal was down a break in the third set and was apparently frustrated with Rosol's pre-serve movements and noises. The Czech danced around on the baseline and was making heavy breathing sounds while the deliberate Nadal prepared to serve. It evidently got into Nadal's head. He complained to the chair umpire about the noises but was offered no support. That incident, coupled with his own poor play, manifested itself in the shoulder dip.
It was a rare foray into tough-guy mode for Nadal. He doesn't play the role well and it didn't serve him in Thursday's match, which he lost in five sets. Nadal usually lets his tennis do the talking when he runs up against an opponent who has no fear and shows little respect. That Rosol was able to get under Rafa's skin so much was almost as surprising as him taking the 11-time Grand Slam champion to a fifth set. Rosol is ranked No. 100, playing in his first Wimbledon and had never won a grass-court match before this season.
Nadal likes to consider himself above the fray, but he plays more mind games than anyone. From making opponents wait in the tunnel to sprinting away from the net after the coin toss to sitting on his chair a little longer during changeovers to waiting on the changeovers in the first place -- he's a master. The master lost his nerve on Thursday.