Photo: Paul ZimmerRafael Nadal (ESP) and Lukas Rosol (CZE)
DAY 4: Rafael Nadal was left wondering what had hit him at Wimbledon on Thursday night after suffering an unexpected defeat at the hands of Czech Republic’s Lukas Rosol in a terrific match that finished 67(9) 64 64 26 64 under the roof on Centre Court. Rosol, the world No. 100, was unrelenting throughout the match, hitting winner after winner with some of his ground strokes being clocked at 100mph.
Nadal, who was slow out of the blocks against Thomaz Bellucci in his first match, seemed taken aback by the power and accuracy of his opponent but still took the first set in a tiebreak, winning it 11-9. Rosol, making his Wimbledon main draw debut, was not put off however and regrouped to take the second set 6-4. He then took third set by the same scoreline and the 2008 champion Nadal was in trouble.
However, Nadal showed why he was a champion in the fourth set and breezed through it, taking it 6-2. There was a short break of play while the roof above Centre Court was closed before coming back out to play the final set. Rosol attacked straight away and got his reward, breaking the French Open champion in the first game. He then proceeded to hold serve impressively and had the opportunity to serve out the match at 5-4.
The atmosphere in Centre Court was electric and the crowd were keen to see whether or not the nerves would affect the Czech in, probably, the biggest service game of his career thus far. They were not disappointed as Rosol sent down three aces and clinched the game and the match to record the upset of the tournament. “I'm not just surprised but it's like a miracle. I never expected something like this. There are so many emotions. I don't know what to say,” remarked the 26-year-old.
Earlier in the day, Andy Murray had avoided an upset against another big-server, Ivo Karlovic. The Croat, who caused one of the biggest shocks in Wimbledon history when he defeated defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in 2003 ranked No. 203 in the world, is one of the fastest serving players on the tour but Murray managed to return enough to claim victory in four sets 75 67(5) 62 76(4).
In the women’s draw, Maria Sharapova sealed a victory against Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria in a match which had been stopped the day before due to bad light. Resuming the day’s play at a set and a break to the good, Sharapova was forced into a second set tiebreak which she lost after serving three double faults in a row at the start. She regrouped, however, and raced through the deciding third set with some breathtaking tennis to wrap-up a 76(3) 67(3) 60 win.
Serena Williams breezed through her match against Melinda Czink 61 64 in less than an hour. Williams, who is four-time Wimbledon champion and the world No. 6, conceded just seven points on her own serve in a near-flawless performance. “As the tournament goes on, you tend to play a little better,” she said.
Victoria Azarenka, the world No. 2, went through in similar style, beating Romina Oprandi of Switzerland 62 60, though ninth seed Marion Bartoli lost to Mirjana Lucic of Croatia 64 63.
In the men’s draw, there were straight-sets victories for Andy Roddick and David Ferrer, while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish were made to work for their victories. Tsonga took out Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 67(3) 64 61 63, and Fish was involved in a thrilling five-set match against Britain’s James Ward with the American eventually taking the match 63 57 64 67(3) 63.
There was also another chapter written in the comeback of Brian Baker. The American, ranked No. 126 in the world, was sidelined with injury in 2007. He then missed the next five years undergoing five surgeries before making his comeback in 2011. He reached the second round of this year’s French Open, losing to Gilles Simon in five sets, and made his way through qualifying for the Wimbledon Championships before beating Rui Machado in the first round.
It took him just 80 minutes to beat his second round opponent, Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen, 60 62 64. After the match, Nieminen described it as “one of the most impressive comebacks, for sure”. If he wins his third round match, against Benoit Paire, then he will rise into the Top 100, guaranteeing him entry into the US Open. “When you can start getting direct acceptances to the Slams, that’s the way you know that you’re kind of making it,” Baker said.
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