Tuesday 24 April 2018

Wimbledon 2017 given its iconic moment as Rafa Nadal crashes out to Gilles Muller after marathon five-set epic

Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller with Spain’s Rafael Nadal after winning their fourth round match REUTERS/Matthew Childs
Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller with Spain’s Rafael Nadal after winning their fourth round match REUTERS/Matthew Childs

Tracy Wing at Wimbledon

In the bullring that is No.1 Court at Wimbledon, the gladiators did battle.

In one corner stood a living legend of tennis who barely needed an introduction, with his rival one of the only celebrity ever likely to be produced by the tiny enclave of Leudelange in Luxembourg.

It was not a combination that was likely to serve up a tennis fantasy and yet between them, Rafael Nadal and Gilles Muller held the sporting world captive for each and every second of their four hour 48 minute epic battle that is likely to be remembered as the highlight of Wimbledon 2017.

You only needed to glance at social media streams as this epic fourth round battle progressed through a drama filled fifth set that appeared destined never to end to appreciate just what we were witnessing.

There was no title on the line on a sunbaked night in this most famous corner of south west London, but the prize at stake somehow seemed so much more important. This was a sporting duel that developed a life of it’s own, long before the magnificent underdog Muller held his arms aloft as the worthy winner.

Every Wimbledon produces a match that stretches into the night and develops a life of its own and as Muller opened up a two set lead on French Open champion Nadal, the focus quickly switched to Court No.1.

Nadal’s stirring comeback as he pulled the scores level by clinching the third and fourth sets became merely the introduction to a narrative that was only just beginning.

The firth set of this game is already etched into Wimbledon folklore, with match points for Muller coming and going, with Nadal’s legendary refusal to surrender keeping the match going before a crowd gasping at every winner, realising how privileged they were to experience the match of this and many a recent Wimbledon.

How did these warriors hold their nerve amid the unbearable tension? It was a triumph for two men who refused to be beaten, even after they had been wobbled and rocked onto the ropes.

Even after Nadal double faulted to set up Muller’s first match points, he battled back to hold serve and treat his adorning fans to one of those famous ‘Vamos’ first pumps.

Some 54 minutes passed before Muller had another match point and somehow, Nadal saved that as well, with a mixture of guts, brilliance and admirable determination.

Neither man would be beaten as the score moved into double figures, past 12-12, into the teens. This was an epic that no one wanted to end.

Whatever your views of tennis, even if you only watch it for these two weeks of the year, it was impossible not to revel in this most raw of sporting occasions.

The handshake between the two men was heartfelt. The cheers from the crowd were raucous and jubilant. They had witnessed beautiful violence on a tennis court and they just loved it.

Never mind who wins Wimbledon on Sunday, as this was a match that will be a defining memory of this season's Championships.

For the record, the final score was a 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13 win for Muller over the great Nadal, but that barely tells a fraction of the story of the drama we all witnessed.

What a privilege is was to be here.

Online Editors

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