Linda Pearce, London June 30, 2012
Ruled out: Second seed Rafael Nadal (above) was stung by an upset loss. Photo: AFP
WHO is Lukas Rosol and where has he been? And how is it possible that the unknown Czech who demolished Rafael Nadal with an extraordinary display of power serving and clean hitting in the fifth set of their second-round match at Wimbledon has a career-high ranking of just 65th in the world?
''Just you have to believe yourself, and then it's very good,'' said Rosol, the No. 100 from Brno who credited his coach, former pro Slava Dosedel, with a meticulous game plan to anchor his inspired, nerveless strokeplay against the No. 2. ''I mean, I didn't expect it, but I played relaxed, you know. Sometimes I can wake up and I can beat anyone. Some days I know I can lose to player at 500.''
This was by far the greatest of the beat-anyone days, and the result ranks among the biggest upsets in recent tennis history, hailed as comparable with Lori McNeil's upset of Steffi Graf in the first round at the All England club in 1994. Avoiding a let-down is, clearly, the next challenge for Rosol, who tonight plays German 27th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber for a place in his first grand slam fourth round.
So can the player who could not win a match in qualifying for five consecutive years be a threat for the title? How far can he go? ''I don't know. I don't know. I don't know,'' said Nadal. ''How old is he?''
He's 26, Rafa. Same as you. But without anything like the same results. ''He didn't in the past, but you never know what's going on in the future. The thing is today he played great. He played special. Sure, if he played the way he played the fifth set, you can win against everybody. But I think everybody who follows tennis knows that that's very difficult to do every day. But if he's able to do it this time, he will have his chance. I wish him all the best.''
Nadal would not comment on the physical brush with his opponent during a third-set change of ends, shortly after the 11-time grand slam champion made clear his displeasure with Rosol's antics while preparing to return serve. But the Czech admitted his surprise at the unexpected altercation - both the what and the where.
''Was his choice. You know, he did it. What should I say?'' said Rosol. ''I just stop. I thought that he wants to let me go first, you know, but then he started to walk fast. I stop because I don't want [him] to hit me. He hit me, and then three times he apologise. And I say, 'OK, OK, OK'. It was OK.''
Rosol admitted - and Nadal agreed - that he was helped by the controversial decision to suspend play and begin the surprisingly protracted process of closing the centre court roof after the momentum had swung the second seed's way in the fourth set. But, however match-changing that decision may have turned out to be, the Czech will take it, having just reached the pinnacle of his hitherto unremarkable career.
His humble pre-match goal was ''just to play three good sets, you know. Just to don't lose 6-0, 6-1, 6-1. I mean, maybe it's once in life you can play like this against Rafael Nadal on centre court and you can win against him.''
Nadal will drop to third in the rankings after his earliest grand slam loss in seven years, and to his lowest-ranked opponent at a major, ever. ''In the fifth set he played more than unbelievable. That's fine. First three sets, I didn't play well,'' said the seven-time French Open champion, who will now prepare for the defence of his Olympic singles gold medal. ''Later was impossible, no? That happens when you play against a player who is able to hit the ball very hard, hit the ball without thinking and feeling the pressure. Only thing that I can do is come back home, [get the] rest I need.''