This was the dreaded second round match for Rafael Nadal that the tennis world was talking about when the draw came out. World No. 102 Dustin Brown – a dreadlocked German player of Jamaican origin had shellshocked Nadal on the grasscourts of Halle last year. And with his flamboyant serve-and-volley game, he was expected to pose a tough challenge for Nadal this time too.
Those expectations met with reality on Thursday when the audacious Dustin Brown packed off the 10th seeded Nadal 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 from the 2015 Wimbledon Championships. This was the two-time champion’s fourth consecutive defeat to a player ranked outside the top 100 on the verdant lawns of SW19.
Fourth straight defeat to players ranked outside the top 100
If it was World No. 100 Lukas Rosol in 2012, the 135th ranked Steve Darcis in 2013, the 144th ranked Nick Kyrgios in 2014, it was the supremely energetic Dustin Brown this time. All four players displayed their attacking prowess, by taking the ball early and giving less time to Rafa thereby disrupting his rhythm.
And so, grass continued to be Nadal’s Achilles heel as he failed to find a solution to counter the flashy and bold approach of Brown. The German entered the main draw from qualifying yet played like a seasoned pro, hurting the Spaniard time and again with his frenetic pace and his countless dropshots.
It was however, Brown who blinked first in the opening set. With a ruthless crosscourt backhand pass, Rafa broke the German to love for a 2-1 lead. But the joy was shot-lived as Nadal was unable to control the fiery returns from Brown and got broken back to 3-3.
The fearless Brown chipped and charged for the rest of the set and put the 10th seed under severe test. As the Spaniard’s forehand cracked under pressure, the qualifier took the first set 7-5.
Nadal who had recently won the Stuttgart grasscourt title, looked keener on moving in as the second set commenced. The German lost some of the authority on his service games as Nadal returned much better. Rafa finally made inroads in the third game to seal a break at 2-1. The pressure was undoubtedly huge and Nadal needed to pump himself up after every game with a loud ‘Vamos’.
With constant egging on from his box, Rafa held on and with a few superb down-the-line winners, he forced Brown to concede the second set 3-6.
It was the third set where Rafa cracked. In a pale shadow of the 14-time Grand Slam champion that he is, Rafael Nadal went down an early break courtesy two ill timed faults. The comeback was always a difficult road, given how spirited Brown was at the other end.
Rafa’s woes only invigorated Brown further. The returns continued to rain from the German’s side and Nadal simply had no answers. Brown comfortably served out the set at 6-4.
If Nadal fans were hoping for a glimpse of the resilience that Rafa is well known for, they were in for a huge disappointment. The Nadal forehand which once was one of the most feared shots in the men’s game, has been rather ordinary in the last few months. And it let him down at the most inopportune moment once again.
As the errors kept creeping up, Nadal was broken in the very first game of the fourth set and that was the final nail in the coffin. Rafa’s body language from thereon told the entire story.
With momentum clearly on the German’s side, Rafa’s service games got prolonged under relentless presssure. Brown earned two match points when Nadal was serving at 3-5. The former World No. 1 saved the first one with a brutal backhand on the baseline and the next one with a brilliant serve.
As the score reached 4-5, Rafa’s only hope was that Brown would crumble serving the match out with the entire Centre Court watching. But the 102nd ranked player did not fumble and took the win in 2 hours 33 minutes to earn his deserved moment of glory.
Dustin Brown’s 85 net approaches were a throwback to the good old days of serve and volley and it would be interesting to see if he can replicate the same exciting brand of tennis against his next opponent – 22nd seed Viktor Troicki of Serbia.
Federer, Murray, Kvitova advance
In some of the other matches of the day, World No. 2 Roger Federer and World No. 3 Andy Murray moved safely into the third round. While Federer was a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 winner over Sam Querrey, Murray defeated Robin Haase 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.
Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils also advanced to the next round.
Among the ladies, defending champion Petra Kvitova put up another devastating display. The Czech thrashed Kurumi Nara 6-2, 6-0. 2012 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska and 2013 runner-up Sabine Lisicki too booked their places in Round 3. Also winning were Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber but eighth-seeded Ekaterina Makarova fell.
Mahesh Bhupathi out
Former Wimbledon men’s doubles champion Mahesh Bhupathi crashed out in the first round. The Indian ace who was partnering Serbian Janko Tipsarevic, lost 3-6, 3-6, 2-6 to the Swedish-Austrian pair of Robert Lindstedt and Jurgen Melzer.
Serena, Djokovic headlines Day 5 at 2015 Wimbledon Championships
World No. 1s Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic will look for a fourth round berth on Friday. Maria Sharapova and Stan Wawrinka too will be in action on Day 5.