Muller bounces Nadal
Two-time champ loses 15-13 in fifth set at Wimbledon
Rafael Nadal kept getting pushed to the brink of defeat. He kept resisting.
He dropped the first two sets, then won the next two. He erased two match points in the riveting fifth set’s 10th game, then another two in its 20th game.
Only when his fourth-round match against 16th-seeded Gilles Muller of Luxembourg stretched past 4 1/2 hours, the sunlight fading, did Nadal blink.
After repeatedly digging himself out of difficult situations, Nadal finally succumbed, broken in the last game of a 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13 loss to Muller on Monday.
“I played with the right determination, right passion, right attitude,” Nadal said, “to win the match.”
But he could not pull through, extending his drought without a quarter-final berth at the All England Club to six years.
“Just tried to hang in there,” Muller said. “Still kept believing. Yeah, somehow in the end, I made it.”
Nadal won two of his 15 Grand Slam championships at Wimbledon, and played in the final three other times, most recently in 2011.
But since then, Nadal’s exits there have come in the first round (2013), second round (2012, 2015) or fourth round (2014, 2017).
All of those losses, except Monday’s, came against men ranked 100th or worse.
The 34-year-old Muller is not exactly a giant-killer: He had lost 22 consecutive matches against players in the top five.
And he’d only reached a Grand Slam quarter-final once before, at the 2008 U.S. Open.
Nadal said Muller’s powerful serve and crisp volleys make him “uncomfortable” to play.
Now Muller, who also beat Nadal at Wimbledon in 2005, will get a much-needed chance to recover before facing 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
Other men’s quarterfinals: defending champion Andy Murray against Sam Querrey of the U.S., Roger Federer against Milos Raonic, Tomas Berdych against Novak Djokovic or Adrian Mannarino.
The Djokovic-Mannarino fourth-rounder was postponed until today.
It had been scheduled for No. 1 Court after Nadal-Muller concluded.
But that duo played on and on, past 8 p.m., when the descending sun’s reflection off the arena bothered Nadal so much he held up action; chair umpire Ali Nili asked spectators to stand in the way and block the rays.
A few games later, Nili told fans to stop doing the wave, suggesting they wait for the next changeover so play could proceed.
Gilles Muller celebrates after beating Rafael Nadal Monday at Wimbledon.