In an absolute stunner on centre court Thursday, two time Wimbledon champion and 11-time major winner Rafael Nadal was upset by the 100th ranked player in the world, 6'5 Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic in a classic 5-set thriller.
The #2 seed looked uncomfortable the entire match and lost 6-7(9) 64 64 26 64 in 3 hours and 18 minutes. To his credit, Rosol, a massive hitter reminiscent of Robin Soderling, played the match of his life. In fact, the match was similar to that famous Roland Garros match where Rafa lost - there was a sense that the match was not on his racquet but Rosol's - something that is very rare for the Spaniard.
The match started out well for Nadal as he broke early, but then Rosol surprisingly broke right back the next game. That was the first sign that the Czech would be a force to be reckoned with on the day. The set went along on serve until it came to a tiebreak. Nadal saved two set points (after saving the first one at 5-4 before the breaker), and took the first set when Rosol netted a shaky short forehand.
At this point, it looked like Rafa had the match won, as surely Rosol would lower his level. He did not, to most everyone's surprise. He took the 2nd set 6-4 after some inspiring play, and suddenly, we had a match. The third set was eerily similar to the 2nd, with Rosol breaking early and holding serve with shocking ease. He took the set and all of a sudden, an upset was on the cards.
Rafa stormed back in the 4th and gave everything he had. He gained the break - the first one he got since early in the first set - and let out his trademark Rafa fist-pumps. He was energized and he brought the crowd back on his side. He took the set 6-2 after breaking Rosol oncemore.
The official came out and called for the roof to be closed. The players were sent off court, and waited over 40 minutes before play resumed. When it did, Rosol was a man possessed. He broke Rafa in the very first game and then played the most solid tennis of his life by holding 5 more times, and the final 3 at love, to pull off one of the biggest upsets of all time (I personally think it is). For the first time since Wimbledon 2005, Rafael Nadal lost in the 2nd round of a major.
In my opinion, Lukas Rosol played the greatest tennis match than any human in history has ever played. Right from the beginning, he was solid as a rock, and when he needed holds, he got them, and with consummate ease. Rafa could not do anything, and the upset was not a result of poor play from Rafa (he hit 41 winners to only 16 unforced errors), but of Rosol's unstoppable power tennis. The Czech hit 65 winners to only 29 unforced errors - a very small number considering how huge he was hitting the ball.
Mentally, Rosol was flawless. He got inside Nadal's head time and time again, and his intensity never wavered, when all you could think is that it would at some point at which Rafa would capitalize. As I said, Rafa played a very good match of his own, but it was not enough against Rosol, who was just in the zone, and there was no getting him out of it. This is the problem Rafa has with these big, tall hitters - if they get hot, Rafa does not have the weapons to neutralize their power like Federer does.
Another thing I want to touch on is Rafa's poor behaviour in the match - and it finally becoming noticed by the tennis media. In the 3rd set, when Rosol was starting to really overpower Nadal, the Spaniard purposefully elbowed Lukas casually as they walked by each other on the changeover. It was a classless, gutless move by a desperate man. The event was caused by Rafa's unhappiness with Rosol moving before Nadal was serving - a baseless accusation.
In the 5th set, at 4-3, Rosol hit an ace on the first point. He was ready to serve, looked up, and Rafa went for the towel. No fooling anyone Rafa - who needs a towel after they get aced? There was also an incident where Rosol hit an ace but Nadal claimed he was not ready and the point was replayed, which Rosol lost. Rafa was continually trying to slow down play on Rosol's serve (he was serving at a pace even faster than Federer and Roddick like to) even though the rules state that you must play at your opponent's pace on serve.
I have never seen Rafa act worse than he did in this match. He managed to show in 3 hours why I cannot stand him as a tennis player. He tried every dirty trick in the book to try to get Rosol out of rhythm and it did not work - a refreshing change of pace for once. The bottom line is that Rafa did not deserve to win the match because he got thoroughly outplayed in the big moments and his behaviour was absolutely atrocious.
Nadal going out opens up that half of the draw in a major way. Murray now has his best chance ever to finally make the Wimbledon final, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer also have new hope. On the other side, Federer now knows that he only has to go through Djokovic, and not both Nole and Rafa, and if he keeps playing the sensational tennis that he did in the first two rounds, he's almost a dead lock for the semis.
The rest of the tournament shall be very interesting with Rafa's departure, and I cannot wait to see it unfold. This has been a dream come true - I have been wanting this to happen for so long now and it finally did. All I have to say is thank you Lukas Rosol for you excellence - you gave millions of fans a memory they will never, ever forget.
PS: I forgot to say something about Rosol's own gamesmanship in the match - but unlike Rafa, his was tasteful and appropriate. Before the match even started, as the coin toss happened, Rosol was bouncing up and down like a prizefighter - just like Rafa does. He raced back to the baseline just like Rafa does. Right from the very start, he was fearless, and he had the intention of winning right from the beginning. That was a HUGE factor in the win, because he had endless belief in himself.
PSII: Ru-an, one of the best Federer bloggers out there, posted this gem of an article that explains better than I ever could what you have to do to beat Rafa and why Rosol did. Check it out. It is a remarkable piece from a great writer, and he summarized wonderfully why it was so refreshing to see a player stand up to Nadal and cut past his bull.