Rafa’s worst hour followed by rise of Robson

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WIMBLEDON – Whether his knee was killing him or not, Rafael Nadal’s 7-6(4) 7-6(8) 6-4 defeat to the Belgian journeyman Steve Darcis in the first round was a true shocker. The Spaniard had just come off perhaps his most impressive run ever at Roland Garros ever and as a stunned John Isner said when he found out about the defeat :”He’s been the best player in the world this year, and that’s with missing Australia, too. He’s only lost two matches, right? I don’t care what the surface is, it’ll be a big shocker…So much for that Roger vs. Rafa.”

Yes, so much for that highly anticipated quarterfinal. Nadal would not blame the loss on painful knees and that was a wise choice because Darcis played one of the best matches of his life and while even the Belgian conceded that the Spaniard was not at his best, he certainly had to earn the victory in a tight match and that he did, as he was the more creative and accurate player. Nadal was bit slow, and therefore lacked response time and Darcis kept pushing ahead and ended up making him uncomfortable. Of course Darcis has to be applauded for not letting down toward the end of the second or third set, when the match was essentially won or lost. Even if Nadal was aching, had the Belgian let go of his momentum, he might have grown shaky and handed Nadal the victory. But he did not and in the opinion of one of Nadal’s confidantes, it was better for Rafa to lose in the first round than the second or third, largely because his physical agony would have been extended and could have lead to more time off the tour.

What that contention indicates is that the Spaniard was never going to win the tournament in the first lace, because his body was too beat up to do so.  It is not too forward to venture that sometime in the future Nadal is going to admit that his knees were hurting even at the end of Roland Garros. So for all his success from February through early June, it appears that he has not fully healed and perhaps never will be.

The good news for Nadal fans in North America is that he unequivocally said that he is planning to play the US Open. The bad news is that he may decide to play a tournament on clay after Wimbledon, which very well could take him out of Canada or Cincinnati or both, if he gets hurt there.

Nadal’s most notable quote after the defeat was this one:  “Nobody remember the loses. People remember the victories. And I don’t want to remember that (loss).”

Actually people do remember the losses of he great champions to marginal players. Within minutes after the loss, folks were debating whether it was the biggest upset in the history of Wimbledon. Given that The Championships is still considered to be tennis most valued and important event, that discussion alone shows just how significant the upset was. After bad day for Rafa on court, his reputation took a hit, and his assessment appeared as far off the mark as some of his shanked forehand against Darcis.

Robson comes alive

There wasn’t nearly as much drama on Tuesday, unless you are British and became very pumped up after Laura Robson’s excellent 6-3 6-4 upset of No. 10 Maria Kirilenko. Robson has really stepped up to the occasion in three out of the last four Slams. She clearly likes the big courts in intense atmospheres. Not only that, when she is brimming with self-belief, she can really play. She certainly need to improve her foot speed, balance, court positioning, volley and second serve, but the lefty was cracking first serves against the savvy Kirilenko, dictating with her huge forehand and popping some nice two- handed backhands also. Plus with the pressure on, she easily closed out the final game, which was critical.

So now after a pretty lousy spring, Robson has put herself in a solid position to make second week run. She’ll be substantially favored to take out Mariana Duque in the next round, and at the level she played on Tuesday, will have real chances against Peng Shuai in round three should they met, and even Angie Kerber if she get to the round of 16. How about this tantalizing possibility: a quarterfinal match up against the mighty Serena Williams next Tuesday. Talk about pre match drama—Princess Kate, Prince William,  Pippa and maybe even the queen would be scrambling for Royal Box seats for the that one.

I am writing about the US players for USTA.com and focused on Madison Keys and Dennis Kudla’s wins today. I looked at Sloane Stephens win over Jamie Hampton yesterday.  There were some disappointing by the defeats US crowd, specifically Sam Querrey going down in five to Bernard Tomic and Kerber’s win over Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who had a 2-0 record against the German heading into the match.

The upset of the day on the women’s side went to Karolina Pliskova who bested Nadia Petrova 6-3 6-2.  Quality wins were scored by Sabine Lisicki over Francesca Schiavone 6-1 6-2, Elena Vesnina over Andrea Hlavackova 6-2 7-5, Marina Erakovic over Ayumi Morita 4-6 6-0 7-5, and Kimiko Date-Krumm over Carina Witthoeft 6-0 6-2.

As good as Tsvetana Pironkova can be on grass, here’s a result that should make now ex-coach Martina Hingis’ head spin: the Bulgarian beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-0 6-1.

But it gets worse: Alexandra Cadantu overcame grass lover Tamira Paszek 6-2 7-5. The Austrian is now 2-15 on the season. But how about this: Arantxa Rus lost a record-breaking 17th consecutive main-draw, tour-level match today

Men’s wins of he day go to: the serve and volleying Feliciano Lopez over Gilles Simon 6-2 6-4 7-6(11); another serve-and-volleyer, Michael Llodra over Jarkko Nieminen 7-6(3) 6-4 6-3; Tomas Berdych over Martin Klizan 6-3 6-4 6-4; Richard Gasquet over Marcel Granollers 6-7(2) 6-4 7-5 6-4; Grigor Dimitrov over Simone Bolelli 6-1 6-4 6-3 and Tommy Haas over Dmitry Tursunov 6-3 7-5 7-5. Juan Martin Del Potro deserves kudos too given his recent long illness and his 6-2 7-5 6-1  win over Albert Ramos.



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