COMMENTARY | "It's not a tragedy, it's sport." Take it from Rafael Nadal, if you'd like to know what his Wimbledon loss really tells us about the game.
In his post-match interview, Nadal was quick to hand praise where it should be given. The Spaniard refused to answer any questions about his ailing injury, but he graciously congratulated his opponent, Steve Darcis, on a hard-fought victory.
"I don't want to talk about my knee. Everything that I will say today about my knee is an excuse, and I don't like to put any excuse ... [All I can do] today is congratulate the opponent," he said.
Nadal's shocking defeat comes a year after his surprising second-round loss to then-100th-ranked Lukas Rosol. This year, a similar story was written as Nadal fell to Darcis, who finds himself outside the top 100. Similar, but not identical.
Was this Nadal's worst loss? Probably not. Last year, the 27-year-old was more of a favorite to win the tournament than he was this year. Yes, people were looking forward to this year's possible Nadal-Federer quarterfinal matchup and confidently moving Nadal up in their fantasy draws, but Nadal's scheduling had to be taken into consideration here. He may have been experiencing -- up until this point -- a superhuman kind of year, but it's been a little too good to be true if we take a step back and look at it from afar.
Let's look at Nadal's pre-Wimbledon numbers. After coming back from a long layoff, he's been 43-2 for the year, mostly on clay, and he's been in nine finals out of the nine tournaments that he's played. Not even Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic could live up to that statistic for the current year.
With that being said, Nadal was bound to cut back on grass-court preparation. He withdrew from Halle, the only grass-court tuneup he was set to play, and opted instead to rest at home as prescribed by his doctor. Returning back to the courts at Wimbledon would be different for a player, particularly one of Nadal's nature, who would need to quickly change from a clay-court season of defense to a more offensive game in London.
The first few rounds at Wimbledon haven't been particularly kind to Nadal in the last few years, either. In the last six years, he's been taken to a fifth set before the third round on four occasions. If history were to repeat itself, Steve Darcis pounced on the opportunity to prevent that from happening. He played a clean, aggressive game that saw Nadal in trouble and left no window of opportunity for a comeback. Such a prescription, and a hobbling Nadal, were not a good combination.
"A different week, a different story" seems to be the title of Nadal's journey back to the top. Hoisting the French Open trophy just two weeks ago, and now experiencing a setback, shows nothing more than what can be the grueling nature of a tennis player's lifestyle. But things could be worse for Nadal, who could've just as well been losing in the opening rounds of tournaments all year long.
Let's take a moment and remember that Nadal, like every other player, can experience the best and worst in the span of a week. And, like Nadal, it's important to realize that a veteran like Darcis can bring out his best when the occasion is right.
As Nadal packs his bags and surely takes some much-needed time off for his knee, Darcis will be playing an unseeded opponent in Lukasz Kubot for a chance to get through to the third round of Wimbledon for the first time in his career.
With its abrupt changes of events and twists of unforeseen outcomes, that is how the day-to-day tennis story can unfold.
Olivia Glinka covers on-court and off-court tennis news as a blogger and writer. You can read her content on One Stop Tennis.
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- Sports & Recreation
- Rafael Nadal
- Steve Darcis