For the second straight year, Rafael Nadal has followed up a thrilling championship at the French Open with a bizarre early exit at Wimbledon, and for the first time in his professional career, he has failed to get out of the first round of a Grand Slam Tournament. In a memorable first day at the All England Club, little-known Steve Darcis of Belgium was able to rattle the mighty Spaniard and take him down in straight sets 7-6 (4), 7-6 (8), 6-4.
The usually very defensive Nadal was attacked over and over by the 135th ranked player in the world as Darcis remained aggressive throughout the entire match. The Belgium went for his shots, took the game to tournament’s fifth seed and picked up the victory of his life because of it.
Nadal took extended time off earlier in the year to deal with a knee injury, and it’s possible that his body wasn’t able to fully recover from all the stress he put it through at the French Open (as seems to happen far too often). Nevertheless, a loss like this from one of the “Big 3” is nothing short of dumbfounding.
In 2008 and 2010, Nadal was able to raise the trophy in both Paris and London. During this time period, he was ranked No. 1 in the world, won an Olympic gold medal and had everyone forgetting the name Federer; however, these past two Wimbledon results make it seem as though Rafa is having more difficulty transitioning from clay to grass.
It’s amazing how the narrative surrounding Nadal has drastically changed in only a few short weeks. Some might begin to question the long-term durability of the “King of Clay.” However, he’s only 27, and he has made the finals in 6 of the last 9 Grand Slams, so it might be a little short-sighted to write-off this great player.
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