Rafa falls in up­set

Un­her­alded Gilles Muller beats Nadal in epic Wim­ble­don bat­tle

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

MATTHEW CHILDS / REUTERS

Rafael Nadal

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