Rafael Nadal’s Wimbledon journey has again been cut short. Last year he ended his quest for a third All England Club title in a five-set thriller against No. 100 Lukas Rosol in the second round. This year, he fell victim to the physically less daunting No. 135 Steve Darcis.
So what does this mean for the tournament?
I won’t say I’m Nostradamus. Although I did hint in a previous article that Nadal would be facing potential problems in this year’s Wimbledon, no one (not even me) could have predicted the reigning French Open champion bowing out like he did:
First round. Straight sets. To Steve “The Shark” Darcis. 29-years-old. 5 feet 10 inches.
Tennis analysed Brad Gilbert expresses just how stunned the tennis world was at one of the largest Wimbledon upsets ever.
What a stunner I dont believe my eyes Darcis with the great Buster Douglas upset over Rafa— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) June 24, 2013
Darcis is clearly a deep admirer of Nadal. After Rafa won Roland Garros he was positively thrilled. (Excuse the French and skip to the end.)
On s'attendait a une "boucherie" et c'est le cas...:( mais enorme tournoi de ferrer quand même!!!chapeau bas!!#RAFATHEKINGINPARIS— steve darcis (@stevedarcishark) June 9, 2013
He could never have imagined toppling Rafa only weeks after that victory. After the match, in quotes given to The New York Times, he understandingly noted, “I think nobody gave me the slightest chance to win today.”
Nadal, meanwhile, had a lot of questions to answer. He was visibly upset in the post-match interview, refusing to answer questions about his knee, which was clearly troubling him towards the end of the match. Check out the video clip.
But as sport, just like as tragedy, there are implications that follow.
Again, Brad Gilbert expresses the first set of implications.
If Rafa loses this match wow does it change Fedfan and Muzzard half of the draw or what ?— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) June 24, 2013
With Nadal out, Federer and Murray will both be eyeing a considerably easier draw to the semifinals. Looking ahead, Federer will fancy his chances in his quarter, knowing the most daunting opponents he might include No. 18 American John Isner and No. 15 Nicolas Almagro.
And after besting Murray in the final of last year, he will go into the semifinals knowing he's got the mental edge.
Murray, meanwhile, has escaped the worst of the draw. A potential quarterfinal with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will be an interesting encounter. However, if he can get through this, after witnessing Nadal's dominance over the past few months and Federer's seemingly new vulnerability, he'll be looking forward to a replay of last year's final.
Perhaps the mental edge will not indeed be with Fed.
When asked about Nadal's loss, however, Murray dismissed it's significance.
"It's pretty irrelevant right now," Murray said, as quoted by ESPN.CO.UK. "I'm sure for you guys it's very relevant, but for the players, especially me, I have to win at least four more matches before that would even become something I would think about."
But after such an upset, it seems no longer appropriate to take the seeds for granted. After Rosol, has Darcis inspired his fellow underdogs, reminding them that seeds are indeed beatable? That their dominance is crumbling like the Berlin Wall?
Murray is realistic about this, as ESPN.CO.UK reports, noting that in terms of dominance, "It's going to be almost impossible to keep that up forever."
Gilbert sees the effects as more immediate.
I got to firgure upsets are Contagious we should have another 6-8 seeds fall today not expecting massive shock again though ?— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) June 25, 2013
In terms of this year's Wimbledon, another hint that the seeds might be wavering was 32-year-old Lleyton Hewitt's straight-set win over No. 11 Stanislas Wawrinka. Only time will tell if this trend will continue, and if another big upset is on the horizon.
Finally, there are implications for Nadal as well after his loss. Knowing Nadal, defeat (even such a shocking one) won't keep him down forever. If anything, from what we've seen recently, he'll spring back better than ever. However, this will only be possible if he remains healthy.
The loss definitely has put his knee under increasing scrutiny. And ultimately, it means it will be extremely unlikely for him to end the year as the world's No. 1.
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