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Wimbledon 2013: Rafael Nadal's shock exit 'is great for Federer'

Barry Cowan Posted 25th June 2013 view comments

Well, I didn't see that coming!

Rafael Nadal's first-day exit was as big a shock as they come in the opening week at Wimbledon. I was commentating on his match against Steve Darcis and - judging the Spaniard on that match alone - it didn't look as though he was struggling with an injury to start with.

Steve Darcis: secured an impressive 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (10-8), 6-4 win over Nadal

Steve Darcis: secured an impressive 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (10-8), 6-4 win over Nadal

In the first two sets Nadal just looked really uncomfortable on the grass. It was his first match of the season on that surface but I couldn't help wondering, given the awful weather we've had recently, whether the courts are softer and more slippery than they usually would be?

That may well have affected Nadal's movement; we did see Victoria Azarenka take a fall in the match before Rafa's and it's a factor worth considering.

Tight

We've come to expect Nadal starting slowly in events this year but this was different because he was really, really tight on his second serve.

The player most affected by Nadal's exit is Roger Federer because you can't get away from the fact that the Swiss hasn't beaten Nadal in a Grand Slam since he beat him in the Wimbledon final of 2007.

Barry Cowan
Quotes of the week

This is a player who has won seven of his nine tournaments this season. To see him struggle in that area of his game against Darcis, a player ranked 135 in the world, was surprising to say the least.

But Darcis does have 'previous' here at Wimbledon after beating Tomas Berdych in the first round of last summer's Olympics and he is certainly better than his ranking suggests - he was a top-50 player five or so years ago. This guy can play tennis.

He came out with a game plan and executed it; every time there was a moment in the match where you thought Darcis might buckle under a bit of pressure, he kept his foot firmly on the accelerator and refused to back off.

I think that rattled Nadal a little bit and by the time we got to the third set the fifth seed looked increasingly uncomfortable; maybe that suggested more about his morale than anything else.

You very rarely see Nadal drop his head but it was almost as if he was resigned to the inevitable in that third set.

Solid

The player most affected by Nadal's exit is Roger Federer because you can't get away from the fact that the Swiss hasn't beaten Nadal in a Grand Slam since the Wimbledon final of 2007.

So it will be huge for Federer to see Nadal out but this result shouldn't change Andy Murray's mind-set. He is still likely to face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals and still potentially has to play Federer in the semis.

I thought he made a good, solid start against Benjamin Becker whom he beat with the minimum of fuss without dropping a set. For once the main story this morning is Nadal, not Murray, and I'm sure that will suit him down to the ground.

He can just go about his business in a quiet way and prepare himself for the tougher challenges to come in the second week.

Sadly no other Brit could register a victory on day one - and, apologies for being blunt, I can't say I'm surprised. Each of them - Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong, Johanna Konta, Sam Murray, James Ward and Kyle Edmund lost to higher ranked players; Flavia Pennetta may only be one place above Baltacha in the WTA rankings, but the Italian has been a top-10 player and is much better than her ranking suggests.

It was a real baptism of fire for Edmund - who lost to Jerzy Janowicz - but he will learn from it and that's what everyone likes about him.

Even though Edmund is still a junior, he is switched on; he'll take the positives from his match and work hard to iron out the areas of his game that he does need to improve.

No-one is talking much about Janowicz right now but the longer he stays in the tournament, the more capable he is of springing a huge surprise. A lot of guys won't relish playing him on grass if he's hot.

Ability

So, will we see anything today to rival the shocks of yesterday - doomsday for the respective fifth seeds, Nadal and Sara Errani? I very much doubt it. I certainly don't see Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams slipping up in their opening matches.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how Laura Robson gets on against world number 10 Maria Kirilenko and how they cope with each other's games. I think that match is a very difficult one to call.

I just hope that Laura goes out and has a go - and I'm sure she will - because she certainly has the talent and ability to make it into the second round.

Barry Cowan is raising money for the charity Have a Heart throughout Wimbledon with his Sky Bet Charity Bets. Find Barry's top daily and outright tips here.

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