Jun 29 2012 By Colin Mackenzie
The mercury hit 29 degrees at Wimbledon yesterday but by far the hottest items on view were the serve and forehand of Lukas Rosol, ranked only 100 in the world but the man who dumped 11-times Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal out of the championships.
Rosol, 26, was nerveless as he outhit and outfought the Majorcan in as stunning a victory as has been witnessed at the All England Club since 16-year-old Jelena Dokic defeated world No 1 Martina Hingis 6-2, 6-0 in 1999 in an extraordinary humiliation.
Nadal was never going to be beaten in this fashion - it's not in his DNA - but from the first rally he seemed uncomfortable with his Czech opponent's aggressive play. Having forfeited the first set in a tiebreak which went to 11-9 it seemed as if Rosol would disappear to the Futures and Satellite tournaments which have been his bread and butter.
Instead he turned his racket arm to supercharge and delivered more than 20 aces to go two sets to one up before Nadal re-gathered his senses to salvage the fourth set 6-2. As the Wimbledon authorities decided to use the Centre Court roof (it was getting too late to finish the match in daylight) Nadal was forced to wait another 40 minutes before continuing.
Immediately Rosol broke the Nadal serve to lead 1-0 and from then on never looked like forfeiting his own delivery, such was his composure. He was "in the zone" as tennis players like to say. He stepped up at 5-4 up with many of the 13,500 crowd believing that he would freeze or at least show nerves.
But he proceeded to deliver three aces plus a stunning forehand winner to run out the 6-4 winner of the final set. There was absolutely no fluke about it and a stunned Nadal was less than his usual sportsmanlike self when saying thank you at the net. It seemed the world No 2 had not taken kindly to Rosol's jumping around as he prepared to receive the Nadal serve.
Rosol, who had failed to qualify for five previous Wimbledon tournaments, said afterwards; "I was just hoping to play three good sets. Not to lose 6-0, 6-1, 6-2 is a miracle. I never expected anything like this."
Nadal, 25, who won the French Open only four weeks ago, complained to the umpire about Rosol's movement when receiving serve. But this is something many players do and is perfectly within the rules. From the opening set the Majorcan seemed ill at ease against an opponent who had nothing to lose.
Nadal said; "For the first three sets I didn't play well. I was playing well in the fourth and the stop didn't help me. He came back and played unbelievably in the fifth set. That's sport."
Now the man from Brno, the Czech Republic's second largest city and the home of former champion Jana Novotna, will have to back up this stunning win which opens up the bottom half of the draw. Even Andy Murray must have been cheering on a man he can hardly have known. No more Rafa in the Wimbledon semis!
Murray himself had to graft hard to beat the big serving Croat Ivo Karlovic who plundered a second set tiebreak during his four set win. Even this match was full of controversy with the Croat complaining bitterly afterwards of hometown bias after being foot faulted a total of 11 times.
Karlovic said; "In my whole life since the age of eight I didn't do this many (foot faults). After this match the whole credibility of the tournament went down for me. It was never called when it was 30-0 or 40-0. It was always when it was 30-30 or in a tiebreak. I mean what is this? The Davis Cup or Wimbledon? I'm angry because I don't expect it here even against the English guy who they want to win."
The 6ft 10ins Croat who clearly felt cheated does not really have a point. The line judges are drawn from all nationalities and pride themselves on their accuracy, especially those on Centre Court whose decisions can be seen instantly replayed on television. What is certain is that other players have long felt that Karlovic has got away with foot faulting for years. It's just that line judging is more exact at Wimbledon.
Murray's win by 7-5, 6-7, 6-2, 7-6 was rather easier than the score line suggests. The Scot is displaying much better body language than hitherto and immediately identified his opponent's weak backhand as an area he could exploit. He even served slow kickers on his first serve to the backhand wing in the ad court with success.
His eyesight is pretty good, too. At set point in the opening set Karlovic unleashed an extraordinary 132mph ace on his second serve - only for Murray to appeal to Hawkeye. Murray was right that the serve was marginally a fault and the Croat forfeited the set.
Murray now faces the Cypriot Marcus Baghdatis, a former Grand Slam finalist, in the third round. With Virginia Wade having triumphed during the Silver Jubilee year of 1977 is it too much to hope that Murray can repeat that elusive Wimbledon title in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year?
London taxi driver's son James Ward had the crowd on No 1 Court enthralled as he defied No 10 seed Mardy Fish for four hours, saving a match point in the fourth set. Eventually, though, Fish's experience shone through as he bested the game Brit 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3. Ward, 25, was understandabl;y deflated after coming so close to his finest ever win.
He said; "It was a great match and I'll remember the crowd's standing ovation for the rest of my life. But obviously I don't like losing."
Somewhat predictably Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong went out rather tamely to higher ranked players. The former was in danger of a "double bagel" as she trailed Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 6-0, 4-0 before rallying to lose the second set 6-4 with a little pride intact. Sadly Keothavong was all at sea in losing 6-1, 6-1 to French Open finalist Sara Errani. She remains too erratic for her own good.
Today it is rising star Heather Watson's chance to shine as she takes on No 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska on Centre Court. The 20-year-old from Guernsey is definitely made of the "right stuff" and will fight to the last point. In her favour is Radwanska's evident distaste for grass. Against her is the latter's match record and consistency.