Lukas Rosol’s victory over Rafael Nadal is commonly thought of as the greatest shock of modern times, or at least it was when everyone was high on Pimm’s and adrenalin. You don’t get bigger than a grass-court non-entity smacking Nadal off Wimbledon’s Centre Court in the second round. That was the thinking, anyway. But now, looking back at events in Europe over the past couple of months with a clear head, you have to wonder whether it was even the biggest shock of the summer.
Knowing what we do now, surely Rosol’s victory is bumped into second place by Virginie Razzano’s defeat of Serena Williams in the first round of the French Open?
You don’t want to diminish or downgrade Rosol’s achievement, because he played the match of his life, but I’m afraid you have to. Nadal hasn’t played since. As much as he hoped to compete at the Olympics, to carry the flag into the Opening Ceremony and to try to retain his title, he couldn’t because of his wretched knees. And today, after he withdrew from the US Open, you have to wonder whether he will play again this year. We knew that Nadal wasn’t in his best shape when he lost to Rosol; but now we recognise that he was a long way from being fully fit. Rosol didn’t beat a fully-functioning Nadal. So then we turn to Razzano, who achieved the almost-unimaginable at Roland Garros, becoming the first player to beat Williams in the first round of a slam. Serena has arrived in Paris on a 17-match undefeated streak. She has since won the Wimbledon, Stanford and Olympic titles, with her victory at the London Games completing her career golden slam. She has never played better tennis than she did on a mauve Centre Court.
Re-examine the two results. You can understand how Nadal, hindered by his knees, lost to someone playing eyeballs-out tennis. But you could sit there all day trying to find an explanation for how Razzano got the better of Serena. Of the two, it is Razzano’s victory that has had the biggest impact on the season. Nadal, with his knees in that state, didn’t have a chance of winning Wimbledon. If Rosol hadn’t beaten him, someone else would have done before he ever got to his projected semi-final with Andy Murray. And what has Rosol done since? The Czech, who lost in the next round at Wimbledon, has had some decent results at European clay-court tournaments, beating Robin Haase in Stuttgart and Victor Troicki in Hamburg, but he hasn’t done anything to excite. And Razzano’s win? It so angered Serena that she has since been tearing through women’s tennis.