There is never any doubt when Rafael Nadal is losing. The double time Wimbledon champion has a frown on his face and it started after Gilles Muller broke him in the first set. It was there in the second set too, as Nadal hit some routine forehands long helping his left handed opponent to clinch the second set in 28 minutes. Muller is now two sets up. Nobody came to watch this and certainly didn’t expect this either.
Gilles Muller is from Luxembourg and has one ATP title to his name, but he has beaten Nadal before, but that was 11 years ago. Can he do it again is the question hanging over court number 1?
Nadal runs up to the service line for the start of the third set and opens it with an ace. The next serve is unreturned and soon the first game is his. Could this be the come back Nadal who has only twice done so from two sets down in his illustrious career. The odd thing about left handed players is just how tricky they find it playing other lefties. Muller, however, appeared the more comfortable as he had a good read on Nadal’s serve.
Nadal is 2-1 up in the third and now needs Muller to go off the boil on serve. The Muller strategy has been to throw the ball up high as if he is going to slice it, but hits flat and dominating on serve or serve volley approaches. Nadal, who usually likes to play from the baseline is now doing his best to take his points at the net and this gets him an immediate break. 3-1 up he goes care of some odd tactics like holding his opponent up on serve. He won’t mind as he now has a 4-1 lead and appears to be getting into Muller’s head who is now missing on first and second serves. Gille Muller steadied himself and eventually held serve and surely now needs to break Nadal here if he has any chance of gaining back momentum. He fails to do so and Nadal takes the third set 6 3. However, he needs another if he is to have any chance of prolonging his stay on the grass of SW19.
Muller opens the fourth set with some precision serving and aided with a huge wing span it’s almost impossible to get a ball past him. Nadal retaliates with some aces in his service game and notches up 14 in total at this stage of the match.
Nobody had anticipated what was yet to come. At 2 2 in sets we moved to a final set shoot up and with not a flicker of emotion Muller looked the more confident as Nadal bounded around at the other end of the court. Strangely for a Nadal match, the longest rally went to only 12 strokes. That’s how well his opponent was playing. One hour and 23 minutes into the shootout and more pressure on the Nadal serve at love 30 and sloppy footwork from his opponent failed to produce him match points. Muller looked frustrated. He need not have been as match point number 5 came along and it was Muller’s day as yet another forehand from Rafael Nadal went long. Suddenly the crowd was on the side of the winner and not before time. Muller is a fine player and he has waited 17 years to make it into his first ever quarter final. At the age of 37 years of age, one would guess he won’t have many more chance to make it.
The longest match of Wimbledon 2017 is now over and the Prince of Luxembourg was there to watch his kinsman make his nation very proud.