Wimbledon shocker: Rafael Nadal falls to Steve Darcis in first round

Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts as he loses Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts as he loses a point to Steve Darcis of Belgium. (June 24, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

advertisement | advertise on newsday

WIMBLEDON, England -- Rafael Nadal said he had no excuses. Neither did he have any way to halt a rapid, early tumble out of the All England championships a second consecutive year.

Last year it was in the second round to the 100th player in the men's rankings, Lukas Rosol. On Monday, in the first round of the 127th Wimbledon, Nadal was beaten by 135th-ranked Steve Darcis of Belgium, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (8), 6-4.

Yes, straight sets to a 29-year-old who, although a French speaker, could spit out only a four-letter English obscenity Friday when he found out his opening match would be against the Spaniard.

"Ah," sighed Darcis about the opponent. "It's bad luck. I said also in the career it's equalize . . . OK. You have good match to play. It will be on good court. I was happy anyway."

Not as happy as he was after going out on Court 1 and bouncing Nadal, who was playing competitively for the first time since 15 days earlier, when he won the French Open for a record eighth time.

"It's the greatest win that I have," said Darcis, who hasn't had many wins, great or not, in a career throttled by injuries and self-pronounced personal problems. In fact, in 2013, Darcis had only one victory against a player who was No. 70 or higher: Rosol.

Darcis was as candid as he was joyful. "I think I serve very good," he said. "Of course, he didn't play his best tennis. But I knew it is the first match on grass for him. Me, I already played four.

"Physically, he looks OK. I think he was moving good. Of course, you don't beat Nadal if he's playing his best tennis, I think."

Nadal, 27, the No. 5 seed, certainly was playing his best during the clay-court season, winning his last 22 matches. Still, he did not have a warm-up tournament on grass and refused to say whether the left knee injury that kept him out seven months after last year's Wimbledon defeat was a factor in this year's Wimbledon defeat.

"Today is not time to talk about this," insisted Nadal. He won Wimbledon in 2008 and 2009 and was runner-up in 2011. In all he has 12 Grand Slam singles championships.

"I don't want to talk about my knee this afternoon," Nadal said. "All I can say today is I want to congratulate Steve Darcis. He played a fantastic match, and everything I say about my knee today is an excuse, and I don't like to put any excuses when I am losing a match like I lost today."

Nadal had not been beaten in the first round of any of the 34 Grand Slam tournaments he entered before this Wimbledon. Darcis is the lowest-ranked player to beat Nadal at a Grand Slam and the lowest ranked to beat him since Joachim Johansson of Sweden, who was 690th when winning at Stockholm in 2006. Nadal also is the first French Open champ to lose in the first round at Wimbledon since Gustavo Kuerten in 1997.

Federer, Murray coast. There were no other major surprises as seven-time champion Roger Federer and second-seeded Andy Murray advanced in straight sets.

In women's play, second-seeded Victoria Azarenka and No. 3 Maria Sharapova won their first-round matches.

You also may be interested in: