Spain's Rafael Nadal was bounced out of Wimbledon Thursday in a stunning upset, falling 6-7 (9-11), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 to unheralded Czech Lukas Rosol in the second round.
The 100th-ranked Rosol rattled the second seed from the early stages of the three-hour, 18-minute match, applying pressure with his first serve and powerful blasts from both forehand and backhand.
He also showed remarkable composure in shrugging off a 6-2 fourth-set loss and a half-hour delay prior the start of the fifth set to take the match in style.
Nadal came out strong at the beginning and seemed determined to avoid a repeat of his slow start in Tuesday's first round, when he ceded the first four games to Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci before rolling to an easy straight-set victory.
Rosol, for his part, seemed at first to lack the all-around skills to match up with the Spaniard, who came into the tournament fresh off capturing his record-setting seventh French Open title.
The 26-year-old Czech's only match on Wimbledon's grass courts came last year in the doubles and it took him a few games to get accustomed to Centre Court, which can be a daunting venue even for the most experienced competitors.
But once the initial nerves wore off, Rosol was able to find his highest level and take the initiative in the match, throwing down 22 aces and repeatedly catching the Spaniard flat-footed from the baseline.
Nadal barely escaped trouble in the first set, staving off a set point with an ace - one of 19 for the match - before eking out an 11-9 victory in the tiebreaker.
But the momentum of the match swung in Rosol's direction at the start of the second set, with Nadal tossing in a double fault en route to dropping his serve.
With a break in hand, Rosol sensed his opportunity to take full command of the contest and began completely dominating his service games and remaining in full attack mode from the baseline.
Nadal was unable to convert his lone break-point opportunity in the second set and then had no chances at all against Rosol's serve in the third set.
Within the same stretch, he continued his sloppy play on his own serve, dropping another key service game midway through the third set.
With his back against the wall, however, Nadal played his best tennis of the match in the fourth set to break Rosol's serve on two occasions and even the match at two sets apiece amid failing light at around 9:00 p.m. London time.
The odds seemed to be in Nadal's favor at that juncture, but the momentum shifted back to Rosol after the players waited for a half hour while the roof was put in place and the lights were turned on.
Rosol played like the more experienced player in the final stages of the match, breaking the 11-time Grand Slam champion's serve in the very first game of the fifth set and then calmly alternating forehand winners with aces - including one on match point - to grab the biggest victory of his career.
In the post-match press conference, Nadal said "several things" did not go his way and expressed frustration at the lengthy delay between the end of the fourth set and the start of the fifth.
"The only thing I don't understand is why they have to cover (the court). There's no more daylight, but they couldn't turn on the lights without covering (the court)? That would seem to be the most logical thing, to play under the lights" without the roof and avoid a lengthy delay, Nadal said.
The Spaniard also said he was stunned by Rosol's free-swinging style in the fifth set, saying it was somewhat "unreal" that he was able to execute such an aggressive game plan under the circumstances.
"It's surprising to all of us when you see a player at the level (Rosol) played in the fifth set. It's a level I think that's a little beyond reality. You hit every ball as hard as you want, you serve every serve as hard as you want, practically all of them go in where you want them to. More than surprising, I see it as almost unreal," Nadal said.
The Spaniard, who captured the Wimbledon title in 2008 and 2010, also referred to the small margin for error on grass as opposed to clay and hard court.
"In other surfaces, it's easier to turn matches around, but here everything happens so fast that very little decides" the outcome.
The second-round defeat was Nadal's earliest exit from a Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon 2005, when he lost at the age of 19 to Luxembourg's Gilles Muller 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
In other second-round action Thursday involving Spanish players, No. 7 seed David Ferrer continued his strong form on grass by defeating France's Kenny De Schepper 7-6 (7-1), 6-2, 6-4, Guillermo Garcia Lopez lost to fifth-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 and No. 17 seed Fernando Verdasco completed a 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-3 victory over Slovenia's Grega Zemlja in a match that began on Wednesday.
Among the Latin American contingent, ninth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina rolled past Japan's Go Soeda 6-2, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 and Colombia's Alejandro Falla also advanced to the third round after wrapping up a 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 7-5 win over France's Nicolas Mahut in a match that began Wednesday.
Wimbledon is the third of four Grand Slam tournaments on the tennis calendar and the only one played on grass. EFE