This was however a very clearly suffering Nadal, a limping Nadal playing against an inspired Darcis who was in that special zone where a player does little wrong. The first set was won in the tiebreak, with the general assumption being that Nadal would fight back.
Indeed the second set tiebreak saw Darcis get early chances, then Nadal fighting back. But when it came to crunch time, Darcis did not blink. He carried that momentum to the beginning of the third set when he broke Nadal in his opening game. Court no 1, where the match was being played became filled with an incredible atmosphere with Nadal fans being outshouted at times by people cheering for the 135 ranked Darcis. But as Set 3 progressed, it soon became clear that Nadal was not his normal self. The posture was defensive, the shots were wild and Darcis was with Nadal shot for shot and then some more. A score line of 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 is not how you expect someone to beat Rafael Nadal in the first round of Wimbledon.
Nadal was very gracious in defeat, giving all credit to his opponent. He also refused repeated questions about his knee, saying, “I don’t want to talk about my knee this afternoon. Anything I say about my knee is an excuse.” However the good news for his fans is that he says he will not have a such long layoff from the game as he did after his loss to Lukas Rosol last year.
He also talked about the difficulty of playing on grass, especially for him.
It is worth remembering that Nadal is the reigning French Open champion with a record eight victories and there was talk that he did not deserve to be seeded at No 5 but should have been placed higher. As Nadal leaves Wimbledon however he makes it clear once again that loss is part of sport: “If I don’t have doubts I have lost my passion for the game.”