A Finely Scripted Loss
July 20, 2012 in Tennis
Rafael Nadal’s loss at the hands of Lukas Rosol in the second round of this year’s Wimbledon was a dynamic story to witness, not just because of the incredible tennis on display, but because of the dramatic plot twists, the fascinating mind games being played, and most of all, the emotional ebbs and flows that would ultimately determine the result. If Shakespeare had been alive, and owned a PVR, he would have been annoyed by TSN’s failure to cover the majority of the match, for each set could have well been turned into an Act worthy of the Bard’s finest work. But alas, TSN didn’t showcase the clash until the final set, due to the fact that Canadian Milos Raonic was taking on American Sam Querrey at the same time. Normally, a Raonic v Querrey match would seem a better viewing option than Nadal taking on an unseeded, no-name player in an early round. But on that particular day, right from the first set, it was clear that Nadal had come up against an opponent worthy of his best tennis. And boy, did they both deliver.
The question on everyone’s mind as set after set unfolded, was “where have you been, Lukas Rosol?” This is a player that had never made it past the qualifiers at Wimbledon, and had never set foot on Centre Court until that day. Many would have expected the occassion alone to overwhelm him. But instead, he fed off of the energy that only grew more intense at the turn of each set, and that adrenaline would eventually help him blow past an astonished Nadal. Rosol’s game plan was ridiculously simple: smash the ball as hard as you can. If there were more intricacies within it, he didn’t show them. Even in that final set, when he was up a break, Rosol was taking outrageous cuts off Nadal’s serve. Some crashed into the stands, causing the spectators to laugh, but the majority of them (unfortunately for Nadal), found the lines. It was power-hitting at its best, power-serving at its finest, and offence against defence at its rawest. Nadal, arguably one of the finest defenders the sport as ever known, was caught wrong-footed more times than not, and though he fought and played some of his own best tennis, it was not enough.
It was also telling that the final set lasted just under a half hour. One break, off the very first game. And that was it. After that, neither man looked like dropping serve again. Nadal served well throughout the match, hitting 19 aces, which is a rare feat for the Spaniard. Rosol for his part looked unbreakable. Every time Nadal held in that last set, he would then take his position to face Rosol’s serve, a steely look in his eyes, flinging himself this way and that, and playing each point with fierce determination. But Rosol’s serves mostly went unreturned, and the few that Nadal got his racquet on, Rosol closed at the net with his big reach. It was almost painful to watch, and yet, like Shakespeare’s finest tragedies, it was nearly poetic.
Nadal will cite many factors: the grass has inhibited the movement of many top players, including Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, and Nadal certainly wasn’t able to move around like he normally does; the fact that his knees are still bothering him, and might cause him to miss out on a few tournaments this season. And perhaps the biggest factor was the forty minute delay at the end of the fourth set, when the Wimbledom management took the questionable decision of closing the roof, even though there were still three quarters of an hour worth of daylight left. There are many ifs and buts to ponder over, and had the fifth set been played right after Nadal had comprehensively won the fourth, breaking Rosol twice, it might have well been a different story. But just as the finest plays and the most poignant stories follow certain, lively scripts, so too did this match cater to a certain, meaningful plan. Nothing was straightforward, nothing was easy, and emotions rose and fell with predictable uneasiness. Shakespeare would have been proud.
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