Wednesday, April 23, 2014
By Stephen Wilson / The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
Steve Darcis of Belgium reacts as he defeats Rafael Nadal of Spain in their men's first round singles at Wimbledon Monday.
Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts as he loses a point to Steve Darcis of Belgium during their men's first round singles match at Wimbledon Monday.
"Maybe he was not in the best shape ever. Maybe he didn't play his best match," Darcis said, noting that he wants to get his hands on of a DVD of the most significant victory of his career. "But I have to be proud."
That's for sure.
Darcis came in 7-18 in Grand Slam matches, a .280 winning percentage, including 12 first-round losses. So when asked his reaction upon hearing last week that he would be facing Nadal, Darcis smiled broadly and gave a one-word answer unfit for publication.
Then he added: "When you see the draw, of course you say, 'Ah, it's bad luck.'"
While Nadal was struggling, Federer and Murray looked the way title contenders are supposed to in the first round. Federer, the defending champion, needed all of 68 minutes to beat 48th-ranked Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-3, 6-2, 6-0 on Centre Court, as former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice looked on from the Royal Box.
"I'm happy to get out of there early and quickly," Federer said. "Perfect day."
In the most noteworthy women's result, fifth-seeded Sara Errani, the 2012 French Open runner-up, lost 6-3, 6-2 to Puerto Rican teenager Monica Puig. Maria Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion, won in straight sets. So did second-seeded Victoria Azarenka, but not without a scare.
Azarenka twisted her right knee early in the second set, leaving her tumbling to the grass and sobbing. After about a 10-minute break while a trainer wrapped Azarenka's knee, the two-time Australian Open champion finished off a 6-1, 6-2 victory over 106th-ranked Maria Joao Koehler of Portugal.
"I was in such shock," Azarenka said. "You know, for two minutes I had such a consistent pain that it just completely freaked me out."
Reigning U.S. Open champion Murray, trying to become the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years, eliminated 92nd-ranked Benjamin Becker of Germany 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Murray lost to Federer in last year's final, then returned to the same spot four weeks later and beat Federer for a gold medal at the London Olympics.
"As a fan of tennis, it's probably disappointing that he's out, because he's a fun guy to watch," Murray said about Nadal. "He's one of the best players that's ever played, so it's a shame in that respect."
Nadal gave the 29-year-old Darcis kudos for playing well. Taking big swings and connecting time and again, Darcis finished with 53 winners to Nadal's 32, while making the same number of unforced errors. Nadal would slump his shoulders or hang his head after misses, and there was a noticeable hitch in his step on some points.
"Nobody was expecting me to win. So I had to play a good match, relax and enjoy. ... That's what I did," Darcis said. "I really wanted to do something today."
He did something no one ever had: In 34 previous major tournaments, Nadal was 34-0 in the first round. Overall, he came in 164-22 at majors, an .882 winning percentage. In the first 178 Grand Slam matches of his career, Nadal never lost in any round to a player ranked lower than 70th. But in his last nine major matches, he's been beaten by a pair of guys in the hundreds.
Asked what he did well Monday, Nadal said: "Not a lot of things."
There were two moments when the 27-year-old Spaniard had a real chance to get close. He broke Darcis to go up 6-5 in the second set, but dropped serve right away with a flubbed backhand, a shot that gave Nadal problems repeatedly.
(Continued on page 3)