Wimbledon: Rafa Nadal lost in the first round to Steve Darcis of Belgium
Last Updated: June 24, 2013 11:14pm
Steve Darcis of Belgium produced what will surely prove the biggest shock of this year's Wimbledon by knocking Rafael Nadal out in straight sets.
The world No 135 played the match of his career to become the first player to oust the two-time Wimbledon champion in the first round of a Grand Slam event.
Nadal suffered a stunning second round defeat at the hands of the unheralded Lukas Rosol 12 months ago but Darcis went one better to send the Spaniard home 7-6 7-6 6-4.
The 29-year-old, who had never previously beaten any top-five player in his career, capitalised on Nadal's lack of movement as the former winner struggled to deal with the switch from clay to grass.
Nadal had defied the odds to return to his best on the red dirt since his extended injury absence last year, winning seven tournaments including the French Open earlier this month.
However, those knee problems continue to plague him and he looked a shadow of the player who won the title at SW19 in 2008 and 2010.
"I am really happy. I don't know what to say."
But that should take nothing away from Darcis, who took his chances when they were offered and won the big points when it mattered.
"Rafa did not play his best match here, it is hard when it is your first match on grass," Darcis said. "I just wanted to play my own game, coming to the net and not playing far from the baseline.
"I have always played well on grass, perhaps not here where I have had some tough draws, but I am really happy. I don't know what to say."
Darcis swept through the first tie-break 7-4 to take an unexpected lead but Nadal got the break to lead 6-5 in the next, only for the Belgian to level and force another breaker.
Nadal soon found himself down 6-3 but he fought back to level only for Darcis double his lead by eventually taking it 10-8 on his fifth set point.
Darcis then moved ahead with an immediate break early in the third set when it started to become clear that a major shock was on the cards.
Nadal had long since given up chasing every ball down but although he came up with the occasional glimpse of magic, Darcis seemed to be find the answers when it mattered most.
The Spaniard was unable to put any real pressure on his opponent's serve, which held up well under pressure and a 13th ace saw Darcis home after two hours and 55 minutes.