LONDON — In one of Wimbledon's greatest upsets, an ailing Rafael Nadal was knocked out in straight sets Monday by a player ranked 135th — the Spaniard's first loss in the opening round of a Grand Slam event.
Steve Darcis of Belgium stunned the two-time champion 7-6 (4), 7-6 (8), 6-4. He ended Nadal's 22-match winning streak and eliminated one of the Big Four of men's tennis on the very first day of the grass-court Grand Slam.
Nadal was sidelined for seven months with a left knee injury after losing in the second round of Wimbledon last year. He seemed to be struggling physically. He was unable to turn on the speed or use his legs to spring into his groundstrokes, limping and failing to run for some shots.
Darcis was as surprised as everyone else with the result.
"Rafa Nadal didn't play his best tennis today," the 29-year-old Belgian said. "The first match on grass is always difficult. It's his first one. Of course, it's a big win. I tried to come to the net as soon as I could, not play too far from the baseline. I think it worked pretty good today."
Nadal was coming off his eighth championship at the French Open last month but, on this day, he never looked like the player who has won 12 Grand Slam titles and established himself as one of the greatest players of his generation.
It's the second straight early Wimbledon exit for Nadal, who was ousted in the second round last year by 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol.
After that loss, Nadal took the rest of the year off to recover from the knee problem. Since returning to action this year, he had made it to the finals of all nine tournaments he entered, winning seven.
After winning the French Open, Nadal pulled out of a grass-court tuneup in Halle, Germany. He came to Wimbledon without any serious grass-court preparation.
See more in Tuesday's Tahlequah Daily Press.