In one of the most stunning developments of the 2013 calendar year, Rafael Nadal was upset in Round 1 of the 2013 Wimbledon Championships by little-known Steve Darcis. For Roger Federer, Nadal's loss is his gain in the ultra-competitive bottom half of the men's draw at the All England Club in London.
As noted by Greg Rusedski—a former player and current analyst—Federer hadn't beaten Nadal in a major since 2007:
Major shock Nadal out of @Wimbledon, really helps Federer,hadn't beaten Rafa at a major since 2007. One of biggest upsets of all time at W.— Greg Rusedski (@GregRusedski1) June 24, 2013
The straight-sets victory by Darcis marked the first time in Nadal's prodigious career that he's lost in the first round of a Grand Slam event, as noted by ESPN Stats & Info:
Rafael Nadal: loses in 1st round of a Grand Slam for 1st time in career (34-1)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 24, 2013
Darcis was able to overpower Nadal, blasting 13 aces and scoring 53 winners to Nadal's 32. He had the Spanish star running like a gazelle from one side of the court to the other, and Nadal simply couldn't keep up with the frantic pace.
At times, it appeared as if Nadal's knee was bothering him, but after the match, the dejected two-time Wimbledon champion—ever the professional—offered nothing but praise for Darcis and refused to blame his woes on any injury, as noted by BBC Sport:
Nadal: "I don't want to talk about my knee. Steve Darcis played a fantastic match. He deserved it. If I talk about my knee, it's an excuse."— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) June 24, 2013
The bottom half of the men's draw is still full of dangerous players.
Federer could still potentially face Andy Murray or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga—both talented players who have been tough opponents for FedEx in the past—in the semifinals at the All England Club.
That said, Federer's quarter is now devoid of a true threat now that Nadal is out of the running.
The other top-seeded players in Federer's quarter should prove to be manageable opponents for the champion. Benoit Paire, John Isner, Stanislas Wawrinka and Nicolas Almagro should all be easy prey for Federer on grass.
With Nadal out of the running, who is Federer's biggest remaining threat?
Judging by the way he played in Halle, Germany, leading up to the Wimbledon Championships, and judging by the way he dominated his first-round opponent, Federer's game is on point right now.
He's always been a phenomenal player on grass surfaces, and if he can cruise through the next few rounds without getting embroiled in a four- or five-set match, Federer will be in excellent shape to defend his title against whoever comes out of the top half of the draw in the men's final.
Murray or Tsonga will certainly have something to say about whether Federer reaches the final, but there's no doubt that Nadal's early exit has opened the door for the Swiss champion to repeat at the All England Club in 2013.
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