Dustin Brown blows away Rafael Nadal in another early exit
Two days ago, I said that Rafael Nadal could prove to be the biggest wildcard in the men’s draw this year. That prediction didn’t last long!
For the fourth year in a row, the Spaniard was knocked out of Wimbledon before the quarter finals by a player ranked outside the top 100 as Dustin Brown produced an inspired display to win in four sets.
Brown is one of the most dangerous players in the world when he is given a grand stage to perform his act of wild eccentric tennis. As Lukas Rosol proved four years ago, Nadal is at his most vulnerable when you take the initiative away from him and Brown executed the perfect gameplan to keep Nadal off balance.
In a wonderful display of serve and volleying, drop shots and all or nothing returns, Brown’s level never dropped and bamboozled the 14-time Major winner. For arguably the first time in his life, Brown managed to maintain his weird brand of brilliance for more than a set or two and served out the match.
Was Nadal’s loss surprising?
As brilliant as Brown played for the win, the question has to be asked. Was this Nadal defeat that much of a shock? We know that he is vulnerable when the grass is still soft. It hampers his movement and even when his forehand is working normally, the small bounce lands the ball into the opponent’s hitting zone. For someone who was as brazen as Brown when it came to just hitting the ball, this was absolutely ideal.
The Nadal of the past would normally be able to outlast these players with his ferocious competitiveness, but this is not the same man as three years ago. His forehand is landing all over the court handing his opponent free points but most worrying is his confidence. Noticeably more downhearted after a loss at Wimbledon than ever before, Nadal for the first time openly questioned whether he will ever reach the heights of his peak years.
Should Nadal work with a new coach?
Drastic times may call for drastic measures. Fresh blood in his coaching setup has been mentioned as a possible solution with uncle Toni being phased out for a new coach. But could a famously grounded family man like Nadal do that to the man that has guided his tennis career since he was in primary school?
It seems clear that we are reaching a critical point in Nadal’s career. The Rosol and Darcis defeats could be chalked up down to his injuries. This loss to Brown is more worrying because this appears to be a technical or mental issue rather than a physical one. Something that Nadal hasn’t had to focus on in almost seven years. Can he find the answer in time to launch an assault on the US swing or at the very least survive?
James Ward gives Britain a third round
For the first time in 13 years, Britain has three participants in the third round. Andy Murray was always going to be a given, but the gutsy run of Heather Watson and the completely unexpected third round appearance of James Ward has given British tennis a pleasant shot in the arm.
Although it is hardly an occasion to start bringing out the brass band and jazz hands proclaiming that British tennis is saved, the home crowd shouldn’t sweep this achievement under the rug either.
Ward in particular has proved that he can raise his game on the big stage after consecutive upsets in Davis Cup against Sam Querrey and John Isner. His previous second round appearance was a five set loss against then No.8 seed Mardy Fish but this time had better luck in the draw taking on the youngster Jiri Vesely. Having struggled on tour this year in low key challengers and main draw qualifying, the 28-year-old once again rose to the occasion on the big stage to emerge victorious in four sets.
Ward’s section of the draw has opened up
After David Ferrer withdrew through injury and Nadal’s spectacular exit, Ward’s section of the draw has drastically opened up. As well as Brown, the solid Viktor Troicki and the enigmatic Vasek Pospisil lie directly ahead. Who knows, against an opponent who is as notoriously hit or miss as Pospisil, maybe Ward can make another dent in the wall guarding a place to the quarter finals?
On the women’s draw, it will take a minor miracle for Watson to reach her first ever fourth round in a Major as she takes on Serena Williams on Centre Court this evening. The tenacious terrier from Guernsey has a solid enough game to trouble most players on tour, but doesn’t pack much of a punch to trouble heavy hitters. She will have to play the game of her life and hope the 20-time Major winner has another bout of flu if she wants to achieve the seemingly impossible.
Who’d be a scheduler?
Today sees one of the best Wimbledon third rounds in modern memory in the men’s draw. Usually there are one or two genuinely exciting matches on day five, whilst the rest are either predictable or don’t carry that much intrigue. Today there are at optimistically six matches that could have graced Centre Court on a quieter day.
The two that have been lucky enough to be scheduled on the main court are Novak Djokovic Vs Bernard Tomic and Grigor Dimitrov Vs Richard Gasquet. Two of last year’s semi-finalists facing dangerous shot makers, it’s a sensible decision. Yet on Court 1 we have the reigning French Open champion Stan Wawrinka taking on the well-known Fernando Verdasco and the man who had an epic five set war two days ago, Marin Cilic facing marathon man John Isner.
Even on Court 2, there is a clash I would’ve gladly seen on Centre Court. The big serving Milos Raonic squaring off against Nick Kyrgios, a character who is quickly turning into a must see attraction whether you like him or not. This certainly would have gotten my vote to partner Djokovic vs Tomic, but if we’re going by aggregate seedings of the two combatants, Dimitrov Vs Gasquet wins by just one point (11+21 – 26+7).
Even then the Cilic vs Isner wins on this argument (9+17).
Whatever the result might’ve been, good luck trying to watch all the intriguing match ups this afternoon.