Rafael Nadal’s quest to end his string of poor results at Wimbledon continued on Monday labelled as ‘Manic Monday’ with all fourth round matches packed into one. But contrary to his defeats in 2012-15 which came against significantly lower ranked players, this one was against a player ranked inside the top-30 and it wasn’t a tame effort where Nadal went down without much of a fight on a surface that isn’t his best. This defeat came against World No 26 Gilles Muller of Luxembourg who has been on the tour for 17 years and only this year won first of his two titles. Couple his growing confidence with his strong left-arm serve that goes wide of the left-handed Nadal, it proved too difficult for Nadal to break and it showed in the end. And that end arrived after four hours and 48 minutes with the scoreline reading 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13.
With the win, Muller has booked a place in the quarterfinal for the first time at Wimbledon and the second time at a Grand Slam – he had previously reached the last-eight at the 2008 US Open. Up next for him is Marin Cilic who beat Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 in an hour and 41 minutes. The fifth set along in Nadal-Muller stretched for two hours and 15 minutes.
“I’m just glad it’s over,” the 34-year-old Muller, who claimed a second Wimbledon win over Nadal having beaten him at the All England Club in 2005, said. “I did really well in the first two sets, then Rafa stepped it up. It was a big battle. When I had the last two match points, I thought I just had to give it a shot.”
Nadal fought back from two sets down and saved four match points in the fifth set while serving at 4-5 in the fifth set, and then another two at 9-10. Nadal, serving second in the fifth and deciding set, successfully served out to stay alive nine times with multiple games starting off at 0-30 and going to 30-30 or worse. But at the 10th time of asking, Nadal buckled under peering eyes of thousands inside Court 1, equally high number of fans watching on the screen on the hill and millions across the world. The Spaniard who showed numerous instances of what makes him a champion but in that moment, Rafa couldn’t prolong the match and the outcome with Muller also displaying steely nerves to hold his own each time. A miss-hit forehand gave Muller two more match points and this time he finished the job as a weary Nadal went long.