Wimbledon 2012: Rafael Nadal sent crashing out as Czech outsider Lukas Rosol pulls off one of the greatest upsets

Lukas Rosol threw himself to the ground under the lights and the roof, mouth agape and quite unable to comprehend what he had just achieved.

Neither could anyone else on an amazing, historic night on Centre Court as Rafael Nadal was sent tumbling out of Wimbledon.

The 100th best tennis player in the world, a journeyman pro playing in only his second grass-court tournament, had just pounded one of the greatest of all-time and it felt like
a triumph that almost defied credibility, up there with the greatest upsets in Wimbledon annals.

An 11-times Grand Slam champion in his prime being outplayed 6-7 (9-11), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 by a player who could not even qualify for Wimbledon in his last five attempts and only a week ago could not even qualify for Eastbourne? No chance. Not possible.

Yet what made this all the more astonishing was that it actually did not feel remotely like a fluke. Rosol, a 26-year-old Czech, who has never won an ATP tournament and has never really achieved anything of great note in a decade on the circuit, played a match of utterly spellbinding brilliance.

Where it sprang from, not even this 6ft 5in beanpole could fathom.
He hit with incredible power and certainty, served massively like a demon, hit tracers on both forehand and double-fisted backhand wing, many timed in the region of 100mph. No 2 seed Nadal, the great, unforgiving bully of world tennis, found himself being pounded at every turn, fighting almost exclusively on the back foot, hurried and quite unable to assert any form of aggression.
That he managed to take the match to a fifth set at all gives a measure of his incomparable fighting spirit but, on this night, all he could hope for was that the raging fire alive inside Rosol, a man here who punched just a little like his great compatriot Ivan Lendl, would just burn itself out and that the upstart would awake and realise what on earth he was doing.
Yet Rosol never woke up. He was a man possessed. After Nadal had by sheer force of will levelled the match under darkening skies at 8.45pm and the umpire decided the final set should be finished under the roof, everyone believed that, even if his momentum had been robbed, the subsequent 40-minute break would still favour the two-times champion.

Rosol win more than seismic shock

The theory was Rosol would have too long to contemplate his proximity to legend. Instead, he played a fifth set which Nadal could only shrug was “more than unbelievable”, breaking the Spaniard straight away and, then, when facing unreal pressure to consolidate, not dropping a point in his last three service games.
He served three aces in his final service game, including a 22nd in total on the final point. In all, he hit 65 clean winners. Unbelievable.
Nadal was as gracious as ever but when has he ever looked more shell-shocked than this, failing to reach the third round at a Grand Slam for the first time in seven years.
The great beneficiary of Nadal’s defeat, should, in theory be Britain’s Andy Murray, with the pair having been due to meet in the semi-final. Yet who knows about Rosol? If he can play like this again, he shrugged, anything might be possible.
Because it is impossible to remember when anyone was able to quite get under Nadal’s skin quite like the man from Brno in the Czech Republic. After being broken early in the third set, Nadal returned to his chair and seemed to be complaining to the umpire about Rosol’s dancing on the baseline as he was waiting to receive serve.
There appeared to be no love lost between the pair as they bumped into each other at one changeover but, frankly, Rosol looked like a man not easily intimidated.
Indeed, he just kept swinging freely like a champion prizefighter and from the moment that he banged down a 127 mph ace on the second point, Rosol looked like a tower of trouble for the Spaniard.
Nadal could easily have lost in straight sets, having to save three set points in the opening set before finally prevailing 11-9. So you could not help but admire his resilience after he had three times slid and banged his left knee fairly heftily when in full chasing and retrieval mode during the first part of the match.
He looked as if he might just be down and on his way out, such was the sheer quality of this Wimbledon debutant’s unfettered ball striking and looked as puzzled as anyone else to wonder where this excellence had been hiding all these years.
To a Centre Court crowd including Pippa Middleton and Felicity Kendall, it felt like the natural order must be resumed at some point. It was freakish; Nadal lost only five points on serve in the entire third set but four were in one game and he still lost it.
When he levelled with a brilliant rearguard action in the fourth set, Nadal, who had never been allowed to find his A game, was unhappy to be told the action would be decided under the roof. “It wasn’t the best decision for me,” he said. “But I accept it.” It was harder for him to accept what came next. “It’s more than a miracle for me,” smiled Rosol. “I played my best match ever.” One which will always be enshrined as one of Wimbledon’s most astonishing.

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