Agony for injured Nadal as Belgian blows him away

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 4:03am


Twice former champion Rafael Nadal was knocked out in the first round of Wimbledon by 135th-ranked Belgian Steve Darcis yesterday, the clearly ailing Spaniard losing 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (10-8), 6-4.

The 12-times grand slam champion found Darcis in inspired form as he lost in the first round of a grand slam for the first time in his career.

It was the second year in succession that French Open champion Nadal has suffered a shock Wimbledon exit after his second-round loss to Lukas Rosol a year ago. Nadal had entered Wimbledon not having played a warm-up on grass, in order to rest his knees. His left knee was operated on seven months ago.

It didn't take long for Wimbledon to produce its first upset on the opening day of the tournament.

Puerto Rican teenager Monica Puig slugged 38 winners and eliminated fifth-seeded Sara Errani of Italy 6-3, 6-2 yesterday in the first match on Court 18 of the grass-court grand slam.

The 19-year-old Puig, playing her first grass-court tournament as a pro, completely outplayed the Italian veteran with her hard-hitting baseline game.

Errani was runner-up at last year's French Open and had reached at least the semi-finals of three of the last five slams. But on the slick grass at the All England club, she had only 13 winners and was broken four times. Puig squandered five match points before hitting a forehand winner past Errani to close out the match. The Puerto Rican dropped her racquet and covered her face in her hands.

Errani withdrew from last week's grass-court warmup at Eastbourne with a leg injury, but showed no signs of any physical problems during the match.

It's the third time a top-five women's seeded player has lost in the first round at Wimbledon since 2001. The others were Martina Hingis in 2000 and Francesca Schiavone in 2010.

The defeat marked another humbling Wimbledon exit for Errani. Last year, the Italian went an entire set without winning a point in losing 6-0, 6-4 in the third round to Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan.

Third seed Maria Sharapova beat Kristina Mladenovic 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 to move into the second round, but had to work hard to end the resistance of her French opponent. Sharapova, champion in 2004 and losing finalist in 2011, was taken to a tiebreak in the first set before stepping on the gas and pulling away in the second.

Defending champion Roger Federer began his campaign for a record eighth Wimbledon title in quick-fire style, taking just 69 minutes to storm past Romania's Victor Hanescu. The 31-year-old Swiss swept to a 6-3, 6-2, 6-0 win on Centre Court.