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.
Then, after saving Darcis' first four set points in the ensuing tiebreaker, Nadal held one set point himself. With a chance to even the match, however, he dumped a backhand into the net. Two points later, Nadal sailed an errant forehand long, and Darcis held his right fist aloft, celebrating a two-set lead.
Darcis then broke to open the third, and the spectators roared, not so much because they dislike Nadal, but perhaps so they could forever boast, “I was there.”
Despite feeling tired as the match approached three hours, Darcis played brilliantly in the final game. He hit a forehand winner. He delivered another winner on the run and, as his momentum carried him near the stands, Darcis dropped to a knee and pumped his right arm. After one last Nadal miscue set up match point, Darcis capped his victory with a 109 mph ace.
“I'm not going to get wasted just because I beat Nadal. … I might have a beer; the `recovery beer' we call it,” Darcis said. “I need to keep my focus. It would be a shame to beat Nadal, then stop there.”
In 2012, Rosol did stop there, losing his next match at Wimbledon. And in a bit of symmetry, Rosol's 2013 first-round match — a five-set loss — was wrapping up on tiny Court 19 just as Nadal and Darcis were starting on adjacent Court 1.
While he was sidelined from June to February, Nadal missed the London Olympics, U.S. Open and Australian Open. Pressed about his upcoming schedule, and the notion that his grinding, hustling style might put too much pounding on his body, Nadal at first said Monday that no one can ever be sure about the future.
But he did say: “I don't have any intention of missing the U.S. Open,” the year's last Grand Slam tournament, which begins in late August.
A reporter wanted to know what Nadal's goals are at this point.
“My only dream now is to go home and think … (and) analyze my situation,” he said.
Between words, Nadal took a sip of water, then plopped his player badge on the table in front of him. For the first time in his Grand Slam career, he won't be needing it after Day 1.
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