Nadal departs Wimbledon in first round
The Spanish French Open champion falls to Belgian Steve Darcis ranked 135 in the world
Two tiebreaks 7-6 (4), 7-6(8) that fell to Belgian lurched the match in his direction. But even at 2-0 down few thought it was finished. In the second set, particularly, Nadal had a chance for parity when it went into the tiebreak.
Coming from 6-3 down there was a glimmer of hope when he earned a set point at 8-7 on the Darcis serve. Rather than drive his advantage home Nadal quickly surrendered the points back, an out of character loose, long forehand handing Darcis the second set.
As Darcis squeezed another tube of high energy paste into his mouth during the changeover, one of his choices at the end of the third set was to freeze and choke to the master.
He had claimed his one service break. All he needed was to hang in and serve for the match.
A scrambling low scoop for 30-15 brought the crowd to their feet. Much as Nadal is a Centre Court favourite, they could see the greater glory of Murray’s path clearing and roundly cheered as the match reached the point of inevitability and the Spaniard began to sink.
Another loose forehand that sailed over the white line left Darcis at match point. Nerveless, he took it coldly, an ace shooting down the inside to which Nadal barely moved at all. Did you surprise yourself Darcis was asked.
“Yes, I did. Just the second guy in the top 10 I’ve beat. I’m really, really happy today. Rafa fights to the last point. I knew it would be very, very difficult,” he said.
‘A lot of slice’
“Today I served very good. I could use a lot of slice and I don’t think he liked it very much. Of course he didn’t play very good. It was his first match on grass. I played four (on grass). Physically, he looked okay. He was moving. He was running good. I have no idea if he was a little bit injured. You have to ask him.
“Nobody was expecting me to win. I had to relax, enjoy the game and that’s what I did. I knew I would have a chance if I played a good match. Of course Rafa didn’t play his best tennis. I could see it and I tried to take advantage.
“You play tennis to play on big courts against big players,” added the 29-year-old. “In a few years people will talk about this match and also maybe me. I enjoyed it from the first point to the end. It was a great, great moment.”
Few disagreed. Even Nadal.