Nadal suffers shock first round loss in London

Rafael Nadal AFP PHOTO

LONDON: Rafael Nadal suffered Wimbledon humiliation at the hands of Belgian world No.135 Steve Darcis on Monday (Tuesday evening in Manila), a shock first round defeat which cleared the title paths of Andy Murray and Roger Federer.

Journeyman Darcis clinched a 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (10/8), 6-4 win to condemn the fifth-seed Spanish superstar to a first ever loss in the opening round of a major.

It also came just two weeks after 12-time Grand Slam title winner Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 Wimbledon champion, had celebrated a record eighth French Open crown.

The sensational result was the first time since Gustavo Kuerten in 1997 that a French Open champion had lost in the opening round at Wimbledon.

The defeat followed Nadal’s second round shocker at the hands of Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic at last year’s Wimbledon.

But he refused to blame his constant struggles with his knees for defeat.

“It’s not the right day (to discuss my knees). I tried my best in every moment, but it was not possible this afternoon,” said Nadal.

“On grass, it’s difficult to adapt when you don’t have a chance to play on the surface before Wimbledon.

“Darcis deserved to win today.”

Darcis, 29, and nicknamed “Shark,” had come into Wimbledon with just two wins under his belt on the tour all year.

“Nobody was expecting my win today,” said Darcis, who has now matched his best performance at the All England Club having reached the second round in 2009.

Nadal had won 43 of his 45 matches and seven titles since his return to the tour in February after a seven-month injury lay-off to rest his notoriously suspect knees.

But he was flat-footed and half-hearted as Darcis fired 13 aces and 53 winners past the hapless Spaniard.

Darcis will next face Poland’s Lukasz Kubot.

Second seeded Murray made history as the world No. 2 cruised into the second round with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Germany’s Benjamin Becker.

Murray’s dominant display on Centre Court made him the most successful British man in Grand Slam history as he surpassed Fred Perry’s total of 106 matches won at the four majors.

The US Open champion will next play Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun, who beat him at the 2008 Olympics.

“It’s a good start. There are always nerves before the first match at a Grand Slam, especially here for me. I’m glad to get it out of the way and keep improving,” said Murray, the runner-up to Federer last year.

Federer began his bid for a record eighth Wimbledon title with a 69-minute demolition of Victor Hanescu.

Federer, 31, swept to a 6-3, 6-2, 6-0 win on Centre Court to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his first triumph at the All England Club.

The seven-time champion Swiss fired 32 winners and just six unforced errors as he clinched a sixth career victory over the 47th-ranked Romanian.

“It’s the most special thing to be back on Centre Court,” said Federer, playing in his 55th straight Grand Slam and seeking an 18th major.

“I am not sure how much better I could have played.”

Federer next plays Sergiy Stakhovsky of the Ukraine.

Old-stager Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 champion, also reached the second round with a 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 win over Swiss 11th seed Stanislas Wawrinka.

Hewitt meets German qualifier Dustin Brown for a place in the last 32.

Women’s third seed Maria Sharapova put her bitter public feud with Serena Williams to one side to reach the second round.

The 2004 champion was given a stern test by France’s Kristina Mladenovic but the Russian third seed eventually triumphed 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.

Sharapova and Williams had exchanged angry words in the run-up to the tournament with both players aiming verbal volleys at each other’s love lives.

“I’ve said everything that I wanted to say about the issue. Wimbledon started. This is my work,” said Sharapova who next meets Portuguese qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito.

Second seed Victoria Azarenka, a semifinalist in 2011 and 2012, moved into second round, beating Portugal’s world number 106 Maria Joao Koehler 6-1, 6-2.

The 23-year-old Belarusian, the reigning Australian Open champion, broke down in tears after suffering a worrying fall in the second game of the second set on Court One as her right leg gave way in her service action.

Azarenka collapsed in crippling pain before her match was delayed by 10 minutes for her to have her right knee heavily strapped.

Italian fifth seed Sara Errani slumped to a 6-3, 6-2 defeat to Puerto Rican teenager Monica Puig.

Former world number ones, Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic all progressed.

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