WIMBLEDON, England — Two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal suffered his first career defeat in the opening round of a Grand Slam tournament on Monday, losing to Belgium’s Steve Darcis 7-6 (4), 7-6 (8), 6-4.
The 135th-ranked Darcis snapped the French Open champion’s 22-match winning streak and dealt the fifth-ranked Nadal his second early exit in a row at Wimbledon. Last year, Nadal lost to No. 100 Lukas Rosol in the second round, his last match of the year as a knee injury sidelined him until February.
Here’s a roundup of highlights, statistics, quotes and Twitter reaction from Darcis’ first career victory over a top-five player.
• Nadal had been 34-0 in the first round of majors.
• The last reigning French Open champion to lose in the first round of Wimbledon was Gustavo Kuerten in 1997.
• At No. 135, Darcis is the lowest-ranked player to beat Nadal at a Slam, and the lowest-ranked player to beat him at any tournament since 2006. He was ranked as high as 44th in 2008.
• In his only previous match against Nadal, Darcis retired down 1-6, 0-2 in the 2010 Doha quarterfinals.
• Darcis entered Wimbledon with a career 11-11 record on grass.
• Before Monday, Darcis had won one main-draw match at Wimbledon in three appearances. In 2009, he defeated Frank Dancevic in the first round before losing to Ivo Karlovic. Last year, he lost to No. 168 Guillaume Rufin in the first round.
• Darcis has won two titles: 2007 in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, where, in his second ATP tournament, he won three matches in qualifying and five more in the main draw as the 297th-ranked player in the world; and 2008 in Memphis, where he defeated then-No. 42 Robin Soderling in the final.
• This was Darcis’ second victory against a top-10 player in 13 attempts. His other win came against Tomas Berdych in the first round of the 2012 London Olympics at Wimbledon. Berdych was ranked seventh.
• In 2012, Darcis led the ATP in tiebreak percentage at .818 (18-4). He won two tiebreaks against Nadal on Monday.
• Last week, Darcis lost to Stephane Bohli in the qualifying event at a low-level ATP event in the Netherlands. Bohli is ranked No. 381.
• Nadal has 164 victories in majors. That’s more than Darcis’ total number of matches played (151).
• An out-of-breath and overwhelmed Darcis summed things up perfectly as he spoke to the BBC immediately after the match. “Nobody was expecting my win today,” he said. “Nadal didn’t play his best tennis. I knew the first match on grass [in Nadal's season] is always difficult. … I tried to do what I like to do, come to the net as soon as I can, not play too far from the baseline. I think it worked pretty good today. … I don’t know what to say right now. I’m really happy.”
• What was Darcis’ first thought after being drawn Friday to face Nadal? “S—,” Darcis said.
• Nadal congratulated Darcis on a good match. “Sometimes you play well and you have the chance to win,” he said. “Sometimes you play worst and the opponent plays well and you lose. That’s the good thing about the sport. That’s all.”
• Nadal looked to be struggling throughout the match with his movement, but he refused to answer any questions about his physical condition. “I think [this] is not the day to talk about [my knee],” Nadal said. “I am confident that I will have a good recovery and be ready for the next tournaments. I played much more than what I dreamed before here after the injury. So that’s a fantastic and very positive thing for me. I know the grass is a difficult surface for the way that I need to play to play well here. Was not possible this year.”
• “I think you are joking,” Nadal said, after being repeatedly asked about his physical condition. “I answered this question three times or four times already. I’m not going to talk about my knee this afternoon. Only thing that can say today is congratulate Steve Darcis. He played a fantastic match. Everything that I will say today about my knee is an excuse, and I don’t like to put any excuse when I’m losing a match like I lost today. He deserves not one excuse.”
• Nadal has no regrets about his heavy clay schedule in advance of the grass season. “The calendar was for me perfect, winning seven tournaments of the nine [he entered], and playing two finals,” he said. “I cannot say I will make something different today because I will not. I will repeat my calendar. My season has been fantastic, much better than what I [would] have thought five months ago. So I am happy about everything.”
• Nadal’s loss came in his first tournament since winning the French Open. “Two weeks ago, I was in a fantastic situation, winning a fantastic tournament,” Nadal said. “Two weeks later, I lost here in the first round. That’s the positive and the negative thing about this sport. It is tough losing in the first round. But, as I said before, the tour continues, life continues, and this is a sport of victories. It’s not a sport of losses. Nobody remember the losses. People remember the victories. And I don’t want to remember that loss.”
Unreal effort by Darcis. Played great tennis …….—
(@andyroddick) June 24, 2013
Everybody was talking about the Rafa- Roger 1/4final…and here comes Darcis & showes that anything is possible! Unbelievable match by him!—
Sabine Lisicki (@sabinelisicki) June 24, 2013
This is the second win for Steve Darcis at Wimbledon. Ever. I think he'll remember it.—
Lindsay Gibbs (@linzsports) June 24, 2013