It was only Day One, but tennis fans witnessed what has to be one of the greatest upsets in Wimbledon history when French Open champion Rafael Nadal suffered a stunning first round loss at the hands of 135th-ranked Steve Darcis of Belgium – in straight sets no less!
It was Nadal’s first loss in an opening round of a Grand Slam event, and brought an end to his 22-match winning streak. It also marked the first time since 1997 (Gustavo Keurten) that the reigning French Open champion had lost in the first round at Wimbledon.
Here are a few thoughts on this historic upset:
- So much for my Wimbledon preview and predictions for the rest of the fortnight! Obviously I (and everyone else) had Nadal going much further than this. So who benefits most from this loss? Obviously one has to start with Roger Federer. His already easy draw has been made even easier now that his bugaboo is no longer in his path. Andy Murray is another beneficiary as both Federer and Nadal are in his half of the draw. And how about American John Isner? He should be thinking of a date with Federer in the quarterfinals now that Nadal is gone.
- I had no idea who Steve Darcis was before today. But give the man full credit! He played great aggressive grass-court tennis today. He went for his serves as well as his shots and was well rewarded for it. He did not allow Nadal to get comfortable and dictated the points from start to finish. More impressively was the way he held his nerves in the third set after securing the early break.
- Physically, Nadal was struggling out there. On this surface (grass) where the ball stays low and requires more bending of the knees, it looked like it took a toll on the Spaniard. Now (just as last year) we have to wonder about his future. And even though it was the right move to withdraw from the warm-up tournament in Halle, one has to wonder if playing a full clay court schedule was wise. I noted once before that this was not necessary given the state of his knees and the violent style of his game and it looks like I was right.
- With Nadal being bounced in the early rounds of Wimbledon in consecutive years it should be time to reassess where he stands as far as G.O.A.T status is concerned. There are some who believe that Nadal may be the greatest tennis player ever based on his superior head-to-head record against the other members of the Big Four (Federer, DJokovic and Murray). There are some who also believe that when it’s all said and done, it will be Nadal and not Federer with the record for most Grand Slam singles titles won. Now that has to be called into question. Nadal has not won a Grand Slam title on anything other than clay since 2010 and with his knees there might be a chance this remains true for the rest of his career. On the other hand, Roger Federer has not lost before the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament since 2004 (36 consecutive and counting). He has won multiple Slams in every tournament except the French Open and frankly would’ve had at least a handful of those if not for Nadal. Djokovic meanwhile has been to 16 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals and counting as he makes his own case for best of the best.