Rafael Nadal’s exit from Wimbledon in the first round is one of the most shocking upsets to ever take place at the tournament.
Last year, Nadal lost to Czech player Lukas Rosol in five sets in the second round, which at the time was called the biggest upset in Wimbledon history.
On Monday, he suffered his first-ever opening-round defeat at a Grand Slam event when he lost in straight sets to 103rd-ranked Belgian player Steve Darcis 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (10-8), 6-4.
But as shocking and unexpected as this upset is, it is most certainly not the first time, nor will it be the last, in which a high ranking player is eliminated in the early rounds.
It is not unheard of that a player comes in with great expectations only to fall to an unknown or lower ranking rival only to succumb to better play. The underdog rule applies even at this level of game.
Many power house names have been upset through the years by challengers that sometimes became household names of their own such as Roger Federer.
In light of the unexpected conclusion in Nadal’s bid to win the coveted title we examine some of the most shocking upsets in Wimbledon history during the modern era.
1975 Men’s Final: Arthur Ashe Defeats Jimmy Connors 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4
Jimmy Connors was the defending Wimbledon champion in 1974, and, with his cocky attitude, he was sure he would make quick work of Arthur Ashe. Even though Ashe was an established player, he had not won the Wimbledon title, and Connors was on a high from the previous year. But having reached the final, Ashe made Connors uncomfortable forcing him to come to the net frequently, which resulted in one the biggest upsets ever at the All England Club.
1985 Men’s Quarterfinals: Kevin Curren Defeats John McEnroe 6-2, 6-2, 6-4
The bad boy of tennis, John McEnroe ,was on top of the tennis world in 1985, having won the last two Wimbledon titles. When he approached the quarterfinals, he never imagined that Kevin Curren would start the beginning of the end of his career. McEnroe did not compete in another Wimbledon final and never won another Grand Slam title.
1994 Ladies First Round: Lori McNeil Defeats Steffi Graff 7-5, 7-6
Steffi Graff was defending champion in 1994 and had participated in 27 of 30 Grand Slam semifinals or finals. She was unstoppable until she ran into Lori McNeil on the first round of the 1995 tournament. No one expected the five time champion to loose this match on the first round. She stated afterwards that McNeil was simply the better player on that day.
1996 Men’s First Round: Doug Flach Defeats Andre Agassi 2-6, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6
Dough Flach was ranked 281st in the world when he faced 3rd ranked American champion Andre Agassi. He did the unimaginable when he ousted Agassi in the first round of the 1996 Wimbledon. Flach had gotten into the tournament as a qualifier.
2003 Men’s First Round: Ivo Karlovic Defeats Lleyton Hewitt 1-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-4
Lleyton Hewitt was the defending champion when Wimbledon started in 2003. Little did he expect to be sent packing by ace serving youngster Ivo Karlovic during the first round of play. It marked only the second time a reigning champ lost in their opening match.
1996 Men’s Quarterfinals: Richard Krajicek Defeats Pete Sampras 7-5, 7-6, 6-4
This match was marked by a rain delay, which forced play to be cancelled and resumed the following day. Richard Krajicek was used to succumbing to defeat, but, this time around, he held his ground, beating who some consider to be the best tennis player in history, Pete Sampras.
1991 Men’s Semifinals: Michael Stich Defeats Stefan Edberg 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6
This upset was one of the most shocking ones in Wimbledon’s history. Not only did Michael Stich do away with the No. 1 ranked player in the world, Stefan Edberg, but he went to the finals and defeated fellow countryman Boris Becker 6-4, 7-6, 6-4 to win the trophy. These two upsets are among the most shocking ones to take place at Wimbledon.
1990 Ladies Semifinals: Zina Garrison Defeats Steffi Graf 6-3, 3-6, 6-4
Sometimes the underdog is on a roll. This was the case with American Zina Garrison in 1990. In a similar situation as that of Michael Stich, Garrison had two major upsets at her hands. First she eliminated the great Monica Seles 3-6, 6-3, 9-7 in the quarterfinals. She then continued on to the semifinals to upset Steffi Graff 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. However, she was unable to get past Martina Navratilova in the finals.
1987 Men’s Finals: Pat Cash Defeats Ivan Lendl 7-6, 6-2, 7-5
Ivan Lendl seemed to be cursed, having won all other major Grand Slams but never attaining the title at the All England Club. It was Lendl’s closest chance to win a Wimbledon title. But the American Cash stood in his way and defeated Lendl 7-6, 6-2, 7-5. The Czech player never reached another final at Wimbledon.
2012 Men’s Second Round: Lucas Rosol Defeats Rafael Nadal 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3
In a marathon match that lasted three contentious sets, Lucas Rosol defeated Rafael Nadal in 2012. Ranked No. 100 in the world, Rosol pulled one of the greatest upsets ever in Wimbledon history beating Nadal.
2001 Men’s Fourth Round: Roger Federer Defeats Pete Sampras 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5
In 2001, Roger Federer was a young player whose talented had only began to surface. Smapras was almost 30 when he faced a young and eager 19-year-old Roger Federer who discomfited him with the precision of his shots to upset the seven time champion.
2000 Ladies Wimbledon Final: Venus Williams Defeats Lindsay Davenport 6-3, 7-6
Venus Williams made history in 2000 becoming the second sister to win a Grand Slam title. Sister Serena won the US Open in 1999. This was the first of five Wimbledon titles won by Venus Williams. The Williams sisters have dominated women’s tennis for over a decade.
[Image via Rafael Nadal Facebook]