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Media reaction to Rafael Nadal’s loss to Steve Darcis at Wimbledon

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Steve Darcis and Rafael Nadal

Steve Darcis (left) beat Rafael Nadal for his first win over a top-five player. (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Here’s a sampling of the media reaction to Steve Darcis’ 7-6 (4), 7-6 (8), 6-4 victory over Rafael Nadal in the first round of Wimbledon on Monday:

Greg Garber, ESPN.com: In the final analysis, Nadal clearly sacrificed his Wimbledon tournaments the last two years to win the French Open. He seemed to have trouble moving against Darcis and appeared to be limping at times. The look on his face was troubled, very similar to the appearance of doubt and anxiety he brought to his only loss at Roland Garros, four years ago to Robin Soderling. … A year ago, Nadal’s second-round departure led to a seven-month sabbatical. How long will this one be? “Not very late,” Nadal said, sort of smiling. “Not that late, for sure.”

Jon Wertheim, SI.com: Now, though, let’s linger on Darcis and pay homage to one of the ATP rank-and-file members who’s been grinding for a decade and, befitting a player nicknamed “Shark,” was the predator and not the prey Monday. It’s one those performances that sustains a 29-year-old who was playing — and losing — Challenger-level matches earlier this spring. The players crowding around the monitors? It wasn’t schadenfreude. It was inspiration. Hey, if this guy ranked No. 135 can beat Nadal at a major, what are my capabilities?

Steve Tignor, Tennis.com: “I played much more than what I dreamed before here after the injury,” Nadal said of his winning years at Wimbledon. “So that’s a fantastic and very positive thing for me. I know the grass is a difficult surface for the way I need to play well here. Was not possible this year. I gonna try my best for the next couple of years.” Couple of years? That’s about as pessimistic as I’ve heard Rafa sound about any aspect of his future in tennis. It may be just an immediate reaction to his defeat, but it does seem, after [Lukas] Rosol last year and Darcis this year, that Nadal isn’t going to be the same player he was on grass. Which is a shame, because what was perhaps most remarkable about his career was the way, unlike many of his countrymen before him, he embraced the challenge grass and made winning Wimbledon his greatest goal. The close proximity in time between Paris and Wimbledon once helped him bring his clay-court confidence across the Channel. Now the turnaround is too fast.

Chris Chase, USA Today: Does this make the Darcis upset bigger than when Nadal lost to Robin Soderling in the 2009 French Open and Lukas Rosol in the second round of last year’s Wimbledon? Not quite. It’s still an enormous achievement for Darcis and a baffling loss for Nadal, but it doesn’t measure up to those previous defeats. Taking nothing away from Darcis, Nadal was visibly hobbled on Monday. The effects of a bruising clay court season were evident. Darcis played spectacular tennis, but wasn’t transcendent in the way Soderling and Rosol were in their upset victories. Whether fair or not, the talk will be about how poorly Nadal played, not what Darcis did to cause it.

Christopher Clarey, New York Times: Wimbledon will have to do without Nadal, and the bottom half of the draw now seems a much less dangerous place. Seeded just fifth here despite his remarkable recent form and his two previous titles at Wimbledon, he ended up in the same half of the draw as Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Murray, Federer and Tsonga all advanced Monday with relative ease. “So much for that Roger versus Rafa,” said John Isner, shaking his head, about the prospective quarterfinal match between Federer and Nadal that will no longer take place.

Ed McGrogan, Tennis.com: Nadal targeted Darcis’ one-handed backhand, a smart strategy, at times. But there was a problem: Nadal didn’t do it often enough, and Darcis’ one-hander was the shot of the match. He hit it through the court and kept Nadal on the move, and when Darcis decided to use the slice version, that was just as effective. Darcis’ command of his backhand was impeccable, able to change the variety seemingly mid-swing, and it kept Nadal guessing and out of rhythm. It also reset countless points when returning serve.

Martin Rogers, Yahoo! Sports: Nadal’s pedigree speaks for itself, a player who is not only a superstar of his generation but one of the all-time greats and one of only a handful of men to win each of the majors. But for all his experience, tenacity and supreme shot-making ability, Nadal, who was 34-0 in the first round of major tournaments heading into Monday’s match, just didn’t have an answer here. The tiebreakers could have gone either way but the third set break was Darcis’ most telling blow.

Howard Bryant, ESPN.com: Dozens of questions will follow Nadal for the rest of the summer. He was injured last year and he said he would play the US Open and Davis Cup but ended up missing both plus the Australian Open this past January. But his comments during his news conference made one thing clear: Once his second-best surface, he is clearly at a crossroads on the grass at Wimbledon. He is 1-3 in his last four matches on grass, losing to then world No. 34 Philipp Kohlschreiber (Halle, 2012), No. 100 Rosol (Wimbledon, 2012) and now Darcis.

Amy Fetherolf, The Changeover: That was one of the worst matches I’ve seen Rafael Nadal play in recent times. Steve Darcis played a practically flawless match, but I have to wonder about the long-term implications of Nadal’s physical problems. It was shocking to see Rafa play like that, coming off winning the French Open. If the grass is that hard on the knee problem, one has to wonder how he’ll be able to handle the hard courts. Hopefully, we won’t see any kind of extended absence again.

Lindsay Gibbs, The Changeover: [I]t’s obvious that Nadal is not at all 100% on his knee. The transition from clay to grass that he had mastered so brilliantly in the past isn’t as automatic for him anymore. His body–his knee in particular–has been through a lot over the past few years. Decline, struggle, humanity is normal. It happens to everyone. It’s hard right now to imagine where Rafael Nadal goes from here. His comeback exceeded expectations until today. He can never be counted out. But off of clay, he is no longer a staple at the top. But today can be about Darcis. He earned that much.

  • Published On Jun 24, 2013
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