Rafa falls in upset
Unheralded Gilles Muller beats Nadal in epic Wimbledon battle
LONDON — Rafael Nadal struggled to hide his disappointment after his attempt to reclaim the Wimbledon crown he last won seven years ago fell apart at the hands of Gilles Muller on Monday.
The 31-year-old Spaniard had rolled back the years in reaching the fourth round and seemed in the mood, and form, for a serious title assault at the All England Club just weeks after winning the French Open for a 10th time.
But left-handed Luxembourger Muller, seeded 16th, had other ideas and edged an epic fifth set 15-13 after Nadal had staved off four match points in a thrilling climax.
Magnanimous as ever, 15-time Grand Slam champion Nadal made no excuses, admitting Muller was the better player.
“I had my chances, and he had some mistakes, but not enough,” said Nadal, who returned to form at the start of the year when he reached the final of the Australian Open
“It is true that most of the time in the fifth set he played more aggressive and he was better than me.
“I played well for moments, but I was a lot of times fighting against the score, especially in the fifth set,” added the former world No 1.
“Finally, the normal thing when you are in the situation too many times, is that you lose. That’s what happened to me.
“It’s not the result that I was expecting. I played better than other years, true. At the same time, I was ready for important things, so I lost an opportunity.”
Until Monday, Nadal had not lost a set in Grand Slam play since dropping the Melbourne final to Roger Federer in January.
Before the start of Monday’s match, he thumped his head on a ceiling while limbering up in a corridor.
Then he appeared to turn his ankle slightly in the third set and was blinded by the sinking sun glinting against part of the Court One structure deep in the fifth as he desperately tried to fight off the relentless Muller.
Ultimately, he paid for losing the first two sets 6-3 and 6-4, and while he hit back impressively to win the next two by the same margin, he was unable to complete what would have been only his fourth recovery from two sets down.
“When you play against these kind of players, you cannot have mistakes with yourself, with your strategy,” said Nadal.
“That’s what I did. I did it twice, in the first and in the second. That cost me those two sets.
“In the fifth, he had more chances than me. So maybe he deserve it a little more than me.”