Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press
Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press
WIMBLEDON, England – First Rafael Nadal took a tumble into the net. Then he began complaining to the umpire. Then he bumped his opponent, Lukas Rosol, during a changeover.
Rosol thought the contact was intentional.
“I was surprised he could do it on the Centre Court at Wimbledon,” Rosol said.
But the obscure Czech was not to be rattled. Nadal made his earliest Grand Slam exit since 2005, losing in the second round Thursday, 6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
“In the fifth set he played more than unbelievable,” Nadal said. “Before, first three sets, I didn’t play well.”
Nadal’s demeanor grew glum as the match progressed, and in the third set, he bumped into Rosol as they crossed to reach their chairs for a break.
“He wanted to take my concentration,” Rosol said. “That’s OK. I knew he would try something, but I was concentrating.”
The 26-year-old Rosol remained focused to the finish, earning the biggest win of his career while playing in Wimbledon’s main draw for the first time. He lost each of the past five years in the first round of qualifying.
At No. 100, Rosol is the lowest-ranked player to beat Nadal in a Grand Slam tournament.
As the match stretched beyond dusk, the conclusion came with the retractable roof closed for the final set. The upset on tennis’ biggest stage was no fluke: Rosol served brilliantly and repeatedly stepped inside the baseline to hit aggressive groundstrokes, while Nadal found himself pinned deep and on the defensive.
Among those shocked by the result was Rosol.
“I’m not just surprised; it’s like a miracle for me,” he said. “I never expected something like this.”
Nadal saved three set points to win the opening set, but his mood soon became cross. Chasing a drop shot in the second, he stumbled into the net as his racket went flying to the sideline, and he rose frowning at the slick grass.
After falling behind in the third set, he grumbled to the chair umpire during a changeover, apparently irritated by Rosol’s movements awaiting serves.
Following the match, Nadal declined to say what had him annoyed.
“Anything that I will say now will sound against me,” he said. “It’s not the right moment for me to say what happened out there, because it’s going to sound like an excuse.”
Said Rosol: “I was concentrating on myself. I don’t know what he was complaining about.”
Rosol exhaled before hitting his final shot, which was his 22nd ace, then fell to his knees with his arms up and collapsed face down on the famous grass. He rose and shook hands at the net with a frowning Nadal.
“I think I was better (Thursday) a little bit,” Rosol said.
The 6-5, 178-pound Czech lost only 16 points on his first serve, cracked his returns into the corners and won 22 of 28 points at the net.
In short, it was a complete performance that had spectators wondering why they’d never heard of him before. Nadal lost despite committing just 16 unforced errors in 276 points.
The Spaniard had reached the final in the past five Grand Slam tournaments and had played in the final of his past five Wimbledons.
It was a good day for Americans – Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and 126th-ranked Brian Baker advanced, as did No. 28-seeded Christina McHale and Varvara Lepchenko.
Maria Sharapova’s old serving problems resurfaced, costing her the second set before she recovered to beat dangerous Tsvetana Pironkova, 7-6 (3), 6-7 (3), 6-0. The Court 1 match took two days and ended three minutes after Williams concluded her victory on Centre Court, beating qualifier Melinda Czink 6-1, 6-4.
Defending champion Petra Kvitova, seeded fourth, advanced by beating Elena Baltacha of Britain 6-0, 6-4.
Roddick advanced to the third round at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in 2012 when he beat Bjorn Phau 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-3. Roddick is seeded only 30th and fended off questions in recent months about retirement before he won his fifth grass-court title last week as a wild card at Eastbourne.
British hopeful Andy Murray faced only one break point and beat big-serving Ivo Karlovic 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (4). Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese man in 17 years to reach the third round at Wimbledon by beating Florent Serra 6-3, 7-5, 6-2.
Nadal’s loss could create an opening for Roddick or Murray, both in his half of the draw.
Nadal broke twice in the fourth set to even his match, and gathering darkness made lights necessary for the final set. Tournament officials suspended play for 45 minutes so the roof could be closed.
Nadal was unhappy that the delay interrupted his momentum, shaking his head and frowning when advised of the situation.
“For sure wasn’t the best one for me,” Nadal said. “I played a great fourth set. Sure, the stop this time didn’t help me. That’s the sport.”
Serving to start the final set, Nadal shanked a groundstroke on the first point and was broken when he failed to put away an overhead. Rosol easily held from there, winning his final 13 service points, seven with aces.
Nadal won a record seventh French Open championship this month and was bidding for his third title at Wimbledon, where he was runner-up last year to Novak Djokovic.
“I am very, very disappointed,” Nadal said. “It’s a second-round match. It’s not the semifinals or final, so that bothers more.”