Five thoughts on Lukas Rosol’s five-set victory over Rafael Nadal:
Turning the lights out was the only way to have stopped this late-night violence on Centre Court. As the players warmed-up, there were people in the Czech witness protection programme with bigger public profiles than Lukas Rosol. In the open air, and then under the closed roof of Centre Court, inside the All England Club’s version of the Eden Project, the previously faceless world No 100 went all Hollywood on us. In the time it takes to play five sets, with a break before the decider to close the roof and flick on the air-conditioning, Rosol went from being a total unknown to the man who welted his way past Nadal and into the sport’s consciousness. There aren’t many occasions when Nadal suffers from forehand-envy, but this was one of them.
To think that Rosol is playing his first Wimbledon, and that Nadal, twice before a champion at the All England Club, had arrived here having appeared in the last four grand slam finals. Whether they were outdoors or indoors, Rosol just kept on clouting the ball through the grass. It was nerveless, it was relentless and it was brilliant; it was almost as if he did not realise quite what he was doing. It was only during the post-match interview with the BBC that Rosol remembered that the other guy was “a superstar”.
This was surely the greatest upset in Wimbledon’s modern history. Greater even than Boris Becker’s second-round defeat at the 1987 Championships to Peter Doohan (it was after that match that the German remarked that “no-one died out there”).
How much of an impact did the closing of the roof have? Nadal had great momentum, having just levelled the match at two sets each, when the roof was closed because of the impending darkness. The process of shutting the lid, and getting the conditioning units going, took more than half an hour.
The classiest act of the night came after the handshake. Before Nadal left Centre Court, after his earliest defeat at a grand slam for seven years, he stopped to sign autographs. There was no flouncing off the grass. Quite a contrast to Ivo Karlovic, who grouched about foot-faults after losing to Andy Murray.
This was undoubtedly good news for Murray, who had been projected to play Nadal in the semi-finals. The last couple of summers, Murray has lost to Nadal in the last four. (Of course, for this to have any effect whatsoever Murray has to actually get to the semis – next up for the Scot is Marcos Baghdatis).