LIGHTNING struck twice for Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon as the Spanish 12-times grand-slam champion suffered a shock first-round defeat to Belgian outsider Steve Darcis last night.
Nadal refused to blame his problematic knees in the wake of his shock first-round exit at the hands of Darcis.
The Spaniard suffered a first-week exit from Wimbledon for the second successive year as Darcis – the world number 135, who has not won a tournament since 2008 – prevailed in straight sets 7-6 (7/4) 7-6 (10/8) 6-4.
It was a loss no-one saw coming, with Darcis – the lowest-ranked player Nadal has lost to since he went down to the 690th-rated Joachim Johansson in 2006 – priced at 100/1 with some bookmakers. Form and reputation counted for nothing, though, just as it did not against Lukas Rosol last year. That day Nadal was clearly suffering with his long-standing knee problem which would then sideline him for seven months. As he struggled to move his taped-up left leg yesterday, there were ominous shades of a repetition.
The 12-time major champion would not enter into talk about a recurrence, though, batting away repeated attempts to snare an excuse from him.
"That is sport, sometimes you play well and you have the chance to win, sometimes you play worse and you lose, that's the good thing about the sport," said the 27-year-old.
"For me, there were not a lot of things good, but I congratulate Darcis who played well. This is not the right day (to talk about injury). I tried my best in every moment, but this was not right for me."
Nadal was advised to miss his traditional grass-court warm-up in Halle by his doctor and arrived in London short on practice on the surface.
Known as the 'King of Clay', his recent eighth win at the French Open was not a surprise, but with him required to get lower to play the ball on grass, thus putting further strain on his joints, a lack of game time on grass was evident.
"I didn't have the chance to play in Halle. I cannot go back," he said.
"I tried my best and congratulate the opponent. It is not a tragedy, it is sport.
"All I can say is congratulations to Steve. Anything I say about my knee is an excuse and he does not deserve an excuse."
When Nadal bowed out to Rosol he was not seen again for seven months. He said he would not be "that long" again, and chose to reflect on his comeback as a whole, rather than this loss in isolation.
With seven titles including his record-breaking Roland Garros success, he claimed to have surpassed anything he thought possible. "I played much more than I dreamed before here after the injury, so that's a fantastic and very positive thing for me," he said. "I won seven tournaments out of nine and I am happy with everything. Losses can happen."
Andy Murray racked up another landmark as he eased into the second roundwith victory over Benjamin Becker.
After becoming the first British man to reach the Wimbledon singles final for 74 years last year and then ending Fred Perry's 76-year reign as the last British winner of a men's singles grand slam at the US Open, yesterday Murray finally usurped the 1930s great.
The Scot's 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory over Becker on Centre Court was his 107th in grand slam tournaments, one more than Perry.
Murray is now behind only Virginia Wade, who won 130 matches, in the British all-time list, a tally he could well reach next year. "I didn't actually know that," said Murray of his latest record. "That's nice. The grand slams are obviously the pinnacle of our sport."