Rafael Nadal claimed another spot in the tennis history books for the wrong reasons on Thursday.
Nadal suffered one of the greatest upset losses in grand slam history when he stumbled against Lukas Rosol and fell 6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 to the unheralded 26 year-old from the Czech Republic. Nadal's early exit defies all rational explanation.
Rosol was not supposed to even be in the same league with the two-time Wimbledon Champion. Rosol had failed to qualify for Wimbledon on five previous occasions. He won his first ever Wimbledon match on Tuesday and had won just four career grand slam matches overall. Rosol was ranked just no. 100 in the world coming into the match.
It seemed like the perfect setup to victory for Nadal. He came in having reached five consecutive finals in his last five Wimbledon appearances and had won a pair of men's singles championships in that stretch. Nadal had also recently claimed a record seventh French Open title. On top of all that, he had not even lost in the second round in any tournament since 2005. Anyone who ventured to predict an upset loss for Nadal against Rosol would have been dismissed as living in a fantasy land.
Yet, that impossible scenario unfolded as Nadal lost his composure against a lightly regarded opponent who played the match of his career. For one match at least, Rosol looked like he belonged on the same court as the mighty Spaniard. He flummoxed Nadal with his powerful serve. Rosol unloaded 22 aces and 65 winners on the no. 2 ranked player.
Rosol showed he was not going to roll over when he broke Nadal's serve in the first set and forced him to sweat through a tiebreak. Nadal escaped the tiebreaker, only for Rosol to come back and break him again in the first game of the second set. He went on to claim two straight sets over Nadal and put him in a precarious position.
Nadal had seemingly regained momentum with a decisive fourth set victory. That momentum slipped away when darkness led to closing the roof at Centre Court before the fifth set. It caused a 30 minute delay before play resumed. Rosol came out and seized advantage. He broke Nadal again and grabbed a 1-0 lead. His serve averaged a blistering 124 miles per hour and proved too much for Nadal to track down and handle in the final decisive set.
It is easy to dismiss this as a one-time fluke, but that is exactly what makes it such a great upset. It was a result that was not supposed to occur - especially against one of the world's best tennis players. Nadal went from challenging for a Wimbledon title to going home early and getting a jump start on his training for the 2012 London Olympics. Rosol went from tennis unknown to instant celebrity after just a single match.
No matter what either player does from this time forward, Rosol will be remembered for engineering one of the greatest upsets in sports history. Nadal can only look back at this match and see a moment where he let opportunity slip away.
John Coon has covered tennis at all levels as a sports reporter based in Salt Lake City. Coon was raised in a tennis loving family. All three of his sisters played competitively and Coon himself enjoys playing at a recreational level.
- Sports & Recreation
- Rafael Nadal
- Lukas Rosol