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Rafael Nadal is stunned at Wimbledon

Lukas Rosol, a Czech ranked 100th, upsets the second-seeded Spaniard in five sets.

June 28, 2012|By Art Spander
  • Rafael Nadal reacts after losing a point to Lukas Rosol in a second-round loss at Wimbledon on Thursday.
Rafael Nadal reacts after losing a point to Lukas Rosol in a second-round… (Clive Rose / Getty Images )

WIMBLEDON, England -- The match began under the blue sky of a humid English late afternoon. It ended in the Twilight Zone.

A kid from the Czech Republic who never even had qualified for Wimbledon before now, a kid who is ranked 100th, stunned the tennis world by defeating one of the game's all-time greats, Rafael Nadal.

All that Lukas Rosol had in common with Nadal was his age, 26. But Rosol, hitting every shot, serve, forehand, backhand, as if he were intent on smashing the ball halfway to France, upset Spain's Nadal, 6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, in a second-round match that was as much fantasy as reality.

"I think it was a freak performance," said Tim Henman, the BBC analyst and four-time Wimbledon runner-up. "I don't think it mattered who was on the other side of the net."

The man who was, the 11-time Grand Slam champion, winner of the French Open 2 1/2 weeks ago and the second-seeded player here, looked inward as much as at Rosol.

"In the fifth set, yes," Nadal said of Rosol, "he played more than unbelievable. That's fine. The first three sets, I didn't play well. I didn't have the right inspiration."

Not since 2005, seven years ago, had Nadal lost before the third round of any of the four Grand Slam events. Rosol became the lowest-ranked player to beat Nadal in a Slam.

Before 2009, the match would have gone unfinished, halted by darkness. But after years of promises, and demands from TV networks, the All England Club erected an $80-million retractable roof, basically so at least a match or two could be held in the rain. The day was dry, but as evening descended, after the fourth set, officials decided to close the roof and turn on the air conditioning, which required 43 minutes.

Nadal, already unhappy with the way Rosol bounced around while receiving serves, grew particularly disenchanted during the break. "He was not satisfied," Rosol said. "But I was concentrated on myself. I'm not sure what he was complaining about."

Maybe about Rosol's ground strokes, clocked at better than 90 mph. The 6-foot-5 Rosol recorded 22 aces — three in the final game — and 65 winners.

Rosol's career record before facing Nadal was 19-32, as contrasted to the 683-121 of Nadal

"When an opponent plays like he wanted to play in the fifth," Nadal conceded, "you are in his hands."

The Brits, without a Wimbledon men's winner since Fred Perry of England in 1936, are hoping this tournament now can fall into the hands of the Scot, Andy Murray, whose pathway on that side of the bracket opened up considerably with the departure of Nadal.

Said Rosol, who had gone as far as the third round in any Slam only once, in the French, "It is a miracle to me. I never expected this."

It's safe to say he's not alone.

sports@latimes.com

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