Giving tennis more than a shot

Utter Shock

 

Rafael Nadal acknowledges the crowd, applauded as well by his surprise victor, Lukas Rosol (Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images)

 

I will not say “Lukas who?” as I’ve read in some places. I know well who Lukas Rosol is. Some data: Rosol was nearly triple bageled by Philipp Petzschner in Melbourne earlier this year and, up until this year, had never won a match in Wimbledon. In fact, he had lost in the first round of the qualifying event of Wimbledon from 2006 to 2011, the last being to David Goffin, another of the success stories of this mid-season.

 

There stop the comparisons between the two, as Goffin is a young up-and-comer, whereas Rosol is a young veteran of 26 years of age. On the ATP Tour this season, Rosol has a record of 13-13 if we include his two Wimbledon wins, and a 6-4 record (no singles finals, no singles titles) on the Challenger Tour.

 

The main characteristic of his game is the power he puts on his stokes. Whether it’s the serve or the forehand, power is the key. Horacio Zeballos, with whom he won the doubles title at the Prague Challenger in May, joked a lot about how Rosol kept on telling him to “kill the ball”. Well, that’s pretty much what Rosol does.

 

The problem with the Czech, who reached a career high ranking of no 65 in August of last year, is his inconsistency. Killing the ball as he might, serving bombs as he may, he doesn’t do it consistently, which explains his record and why, to many, Lukas Rosol was “an unknown” up until today. It’s not the case any longer.

 

Killing the ball up to the two-time champion

Today, let’s put it bluntly, Lukas Rosol played a hell of a match. What impressed the most in his 6-7(9) 6-4 6-4 2-6 6-4 win was not only the fact that he won (that was the shock) but how he won. Calm, imperturbable, focussed, Rosol was “in the zone”, as they say.

 

The quality and sheer power of Lukas Rosol’s shots contributed to his inflicting his earliest Grand Slam loss since 2005 to Rafael Nadal (Photo: Anja Niedringhaus/AP)

Firing bomb after bomb at the service line (he finished the match with 22 aces and served at 67% of firsts), launching winners from every corner of the court (he finished the match with 43 winners – 65 minus the aces), it was however his calm that impressed me the most. Sure, he got tense during the first set tiebreak and netted a routine forehand, thus giving the set to Nadal. The rest of the time, he was of a great calm, up until the fourth set.

 

Was it the perspective of an upset? After all, the Spaniard wasn’t moving his best or hitting the ball with the same ferocity as he usually does. Then again, in that fourth set, Nadal raised his game and took advantage of the Czech’s drop of level to easily take it 6-2.

 

Lukas Rosol celebrated the biggest win of his career as befitted the occasion (Photo: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth)

In my opinion, what assuredly helped Rosol was the half-hour they took to close the roof due to the rapidly fading light after that set. It permitted Rosol to regroup, thus killing Nadal’s momentum, and he came back as fired up as at the beginning of the match, breaking Nadal’s serve on the first game and never letting go until the final moment, where he finished with a flourish of three aces (including on his first match point) and a forehand winner to cause the biggest upset of the tournament.

 

Emotional, Rosol appeared close to tears after his epic win and could barely align two coherent sentences when he was interviewed after the match. To him, this win was “a miracle”. Afterwards, he said that the surprise of it could be compared to “a B-Team of the Czech Republic beating the Real Madrid”.

 

This second-round loss was Nadal’s earliest defeat in a Grand Slam since he lost to Gilles Muller in the second round of Wimbledon, back in 2005.

 

Not a first for Rosol

It’s not the first time that Lukas Rosol upsets a top 10 player at a big event. Last year, at Roland Garros, he defeated, in the second round, then World no 8 Jürgen Melzer, in five sets as well, 6-7(4) 6-4 4-6 7-6(3) 6-4. His reaction was then absolutely cute, as he drew a heart in the clay to celebrate his win, which you can see in this post by Racquet Required.

 

After this win, he went to lose in four sets to Juan Ignacio Chela.

 

Do I think the same will happen on Saturday against Philipp Kohlschreiber? Yes. The weight of taking out a legend of the sport, two-time Wimbledon champion and three-times runner-up, winner of 11 Grand Slams, may very well be too much to handle for the World no 100.

 

For the moment, however, it is time to congratulate Rosol on his fine performance and to hope that instead of being what legend Jimmy Connors (rightfully) called, on Twitter, a “stopper” (i.e. someone who never gets the greatest results but stop the big names’ runs at big events), he may finally gain enough consistency to forge himself a name further than that.

 

An incidence on the rankings

Rafael Nadal’s second-round loss will have an effect on the rankings, as Roger Federer thus takes the no 2 spot, relegating Nadal to no 3. In fact, if Roger Federer wins the tournament, he will be ranked no 1 once more, thus equalling and most likely passing Pete Sampras’s 286 weeks at no 1.

 

Open half

Rafael Nadal’s surprise exit makes Jo-Wilfried Tsonga one of the strong favourites to reach the Wimbledon finals (Photo: Andrew Yates/AFP/GettyImages)

Nadal’s loss also opens up the bottom half of the draw, and makes possible for either Rosol, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Benoit Paire or Brian Baker to reach the quarter-finals, something, I’m sure, no one considered until today. It may also be a great chance for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Andy Roddick (or David Ferrer, as both will face in Round 3), Andy Murray, or even Juan Martín del Potro, among others, to reach the finals.

 

Suddenly, from somewhat predictable, that part of the draw has become full of possibilities. The next days promise to be tense, or fun, depending on if you have favourites still fighting for that finals spot. However, there’s still a long way to go, and the first days of the tournament sure found a way to remind us that nothing is to be taken for granted in the beautiful tennis world.

 

An increased weight of pressure on Murray’s already pressure-loaded shoulders

The only downside of this newly open half? The already big pressure on Andy Murray’s shoulders increased tenfold. Tonight, the weight of his nation’s expectations suddenly became heavier for the Scot than the weight of the world on Atlas’ shoulders.

 

Let’s hope his entourage keeps the papers away from him, and the TV news, and even the Web. Right now, it’s impossible not to feel for Andy Murray, fan or not.

 

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1 Comment

  1. patzin patzin
    28 June, 2012    

    There is a line in movie, ‘Legend of Baggar Vance’ – and it applies to Rosol today – “he learned to stop thinking without falling asleep.” The movie was about golf, but applies clearly to Rosol who, as Rafa stated, was not thinking or fearful. Amazing performance, described as ‘freaky’ by Tim Henman.

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