Wimbledon 2014: Rafael Nadal avenges Rosol loss but more trouble looms
Wimbledon 2014: Rafael Nadal avenges his loss to Lukas Rosol two years ago by winning 4-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 6-4 in the second round
For the world No1 and second seed at Wimbledon, this was nothing less than a very important day for the two-time former champion Rafael Nadal.
Since losing the 2011 final to Novak Djokovic, Nadal had won just a single match at the All England Club—until two days ago. Last year, he lost in the first round to Steve Darcis—the first time he had lost in the opening round at a Grand Slam. The year before, he made a shock exit in the second round to Lukas Rosol in a gripping five-set encounter.
And as luck would have it, he had to face Rosol again in the second round this year. True, Nadal had won their only match since, in two sets on the hard courts of Doha. But the Spaniard’s preparation for Wimbledon’s grass had been far from ideal.
With just a few days turnaround from winning a record eighth Roland Garros title, he lost to the serve-and-volleying game of Dustin Brown, 4-6, 1-6, in Halle. There were a few furrowed brows when Nadal opened here, too, as he lost the first set to Martin Klizan, finally coming through in four to record his 700th career match win.
He talked afterwards of his difficulty in making the transition from clay to grass, but also of his relief to have got one grass win under his feet.
“It was a positive match for me. First thing because I won. I didn’t play much on grass for the last three years, so always is like you restart. So happy for the victory.
“In the end the match was difficult. After the first set was even more difficult. So I was able to fight. I was able to try to find some solutions, some changes during the match. I think I can do it better than what I did today, but at the same time I know I will not play perfect after not playing in grass for a while. So you need to find the routines again … [and] the only way is play matches.”
He did find solutions, too, becoming more aggressive after losing the first set to Klizan, using his considerable net skills to take time away from his opponent and disrupt Klizan’s big forehand. Indeed that very shot from the Slovakian may have been just what Nadal needed to prepare for the big ground strokes of Rosol, But asked if he had learned any lessons from his previous loss, he responded: “No, I lost. I lost because he’s a good player.
“He’s a player that can play very well on this surface. He’s aggressive player. Will be a tough match again. I know if I want to have chances to win, I need to play very well. If not, I don’t have chances to be in the third round. But I going to fight for it.”
And few will forget that his loss to Rosol was his last match of 2012: Nadal was suffering from increasing knee problems that even forced him to withdraw from the London Olympics, and he would not return to the tour until the clay of South America the following February. Then he played like a man reborn, won 10 titles and reclaimed the No1 ranking in October.
So in a day packed with matches that demanded attention, this was the one everybody was talking about—and it was the lead-off contest on Centre Court.
It had a distinct dejà vu feel to it from the first ball—and a bit of gamesmanship, too. It’s a common sight to see a Nadal opponent jogging at the net waiting for the coin toss as the Spaniard goes through his catalogue of rituals, but Rosol was having none of it. He waited, and waited.
And once the match started, he let loose and broke in the ninth game with those same huge forehands that had torn open Nadal’s game two years ago. He served out the set 6-4, and promptly broke in the second to lead 4-2. But Nadal, just as he had against Klizan, adjusted his tactics, bristled, and went on the offensive. It worked and he levelled at 4-4, and already looked a different man, one determined not to lose another set.
It went to a tie-break, and Rosol certainly had his chance, leading 5-3 but making a rare foray to the net to make a volley error. Even so, he aced to bring up set point, but Nadal’s forehand was irrepressible, and a careless double fault from the Czech handed Nadal the set, 8-6.
They had scored the same points in the set, 38 apiece, and Rosol had hit 22 winners to 11 from Nadal. But a look at the errors explained the result: Only 12 from Rosol but a near-perfect two from Nadal.
After a lengthy comfort break from both, there were more ‘time’ issues as Nadal loitered for a discussion with the umpire—and then held up the Rosol serve as he changed rackets at 1-1. The Czech this time did not maintain his ‘cool’, was broken, and with Nadal now serving at 82 per cent against Rosol’s 46—and again just two errors to his name—Nadal served out the set, 6-4.
With an immediate break in the fourth, and not an error on the board by 4-2, the match was only going to end one way: He sealed the win, 6-4.
Nadal will now play Mikhail Kukushkin, who has reached the third round without dropping a set. But attention quickly turned to who may face him in the fourth round, for two long, intense battles were going on between two seeds, both Frenchmen, and two of the rising—and very big—stars on the horizon.
The exciting 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios served out a famous win to love, having stormed back from two sets down, beating the No13 seed Richard Gasquet, 3-6, 6-7, 6-4, 7-5, 10-8. All the more remarkable is that this was the teenager’s first ever Wimbledon draw—and that he saved a bold nine match points against the former Wimbledon semi-finalist.
And just as exciting, he will next play another huge-hitting, huge prospect, 20-year-old Jiri Vesely. Also playing his debut Wimbledon, the young Czech had never won a top-level match before this year, but his 14th victory of the season was over No24 seed Gael Monfils, 7-6, 6-3, 6-7, 6-7, 6-4.
And one more of the new generation, though already well along road and seeded No8, Milos Raonic, made effortless progress over Jack Sock, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
And he could await Nadal in the quarter-finals.