Muller bounces Nadal

Two-time champ loses 15-13 in fifth set at Wim­ble­don

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY HOWARD FENDRICH

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.

AP PHOTO

Gilles Muller cel­e­brates af­ter beat­ing Rafael Nadal Mon­day at Wim­ble­don.

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