Who is Lukas Rosol? That was the biggest question as the 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Wimbledon history, outclassing Rafael Nadal 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, in a second round match that began in late afternoon sunshine and finished more than four hours later beneath a closed roof, the artificial light only adding to the surreal shock his win created.
While Nadal had been amassing a record that included 11 Grand Slam singles titles and a long stint as world No.1, Rosol had in fact been scratching out the odd quarter-final here or there but had never come close to anything so spectacular. He’s never been a tournament finalist – let alone a titlist - and lost in the first round of qualifying in his last five Wimbledon attempts. In 10 years on tour, he’s never progressed further than a ranking of world No.65. They are both aged 26 but in tennis terms, Rosol and Nadal were, until now, poles apart.
As Rosol would surmise later, though, “you never know what to expect” and that allowed a sense of freedom as he shocked the two-time Wimbledon champion and three-time finalist with stunning firepower on his serve, equally devastating returns and an unwavering focus on victory.
“I'm sorry for Rafa, but today I was somewhere else and I'm really happy for this, “he said. “Still I cannot find the words. I still can't believe it. It's like [a] dream for me.”
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Wow, I missed the final set because I thought it was postponed until tomorrow. Who's he got next?
Kohli he's got next. Halle champ.
I'd never even heard his name before the match. It's got to be the biggest upset of all time.
Man hits big flat serves, shoulders square to the net at contact, and a highly supinated forehand like Soderling. Not as wide around as Soderling but he really crunched them. Backhand flat. Nadal hates that.
I don't understand! WHYYYYYY!!!!!
HAHAHA!!! The entire pecking order disturbed.
Roger's scalp up for the taking
Technically speaking, Fed's extreme Eastern forehand grip is better suited to low bouncing grass balls than Djoko's Western. Also, Fed has an overall better serve, slice backhand and volleys. Fed for the taking.
If we assume Nadal is still in his prime, there's no comparable upset in modern tennis. This is a list of the earliest Slam losses by other great male players in their prime:
Roger Federer - semifinal
Roy Emerson -- Fourth round
Pete Sampras -- First round (Sampras's losses have asterisks. The first-round loss was on clay, which was never an upset for the big-hitting American. He did lose in the third round of the 1996 Australian Open while in his prime, but that was to Mark Philippoussis, who later became a top 10 player and two-time Slam finalist. If Rosol makes a similar rise, another reevaluation maybe needed.)
Bjorn Borg -- quarterfinal
Rod Laver -- fourth round
Nadal has them all beat. But even players who experienced less success didn't lose to No. 100 players during their top years. Jimmy Connors never did, nor did John McEnroe. Andre Agassi lost to No. 281 Doug Flach at Wimbledon in 1996, but even without knowing what Agassi was going through at the time (as we do know), nobody was ever going to compare Agassi's consistency with Nadal's.
The three most famous upsets in recent Grand Slam history are Sampras losing to George Bastl in the second round of Wimbledon in 2002, Lori McNeil over Steffi Graf in 1994 and Peter Doohan over Boris Becker in 1987. But Sampras was one Slam away from retirement and two years away from his last major title. It's not even in the same ballpark. Another is Lori McNeil's defeat of No. 1 Steffi Graf at Wimbledon in 1994. This is the most comparable to Rosol/Nadal since Graf was still at the height of her powers (she won six of her next seven Slams after the loss). McNeil was no slouch though. She had defeated Graf two years before at the WTA Championships and was a former Slam semifinalist at the U.S. Open in 1987 (having defeated Chris Evert to get there). Graf > Nadal. But Rosol < McNeil. As for Becker? Please. He was a brash young pup at the time, not an established veteran champion.
There was another upset involving Nadal that could qualify.: As good as he's been, Rafa isn't invulnerable on grass. He was on his dominant surface of clay when No. 25 Robin Soderling beat him at the 2009 French Open. We later learned that Nadal was suffering from injuries and family difficulties, while Soderling became a top-five player. Still, at the time, this was equally shocking.
The Nadal press conference rubber face, no?