July 11, 2017
As the shadows lengthened, Wimbledon’s lucky spectators rose to their feet and applauded, knowing they had witnessed something historic.
They’ll talk about this one for years, another glittering chapter in the dramatic story of these unbeatable championships, involving one of the game’s greatest ever players.
Rafael Nadal didn’t win. But he and Gilles Muller treated No1 Court ticket holders to an absolute epic on Monday night.
Nadal, who had won Wimbledon in the dark against Roger Federer back in 2008, was denied the chance to progress this time in the thickening gloom by a player few outside the tennis community have ever heard of.
The determined Spaniard, Aussie Open finalist and French Open champion, was finally forced to bow out earlier in London, as Muller’s incredible level refused to dip.
In the end, that relentless, nerveless, unexpected brilliance proved too much even for one of the sport’s greatest fighters, and Muller triumphed 15-13 in a final set that lasted two-and-a-quarter hours.
‘I’m just glad it’s over. Somehow I made it,’ said the 34-year-old from Luxembourg modestly, after Rafa had saved four match points and fought for nearly five hours.
Nadal, the younger man, showed signs of tiredness first. As the second server throughout that final set, he had always been under more pressure too.
‘I was playing all the time against the score and that was difficult against a player like him,’ admitted Rafa. ‘It’s not what I planned but I want to come back because I want to play more times on Centre Court.’
Now the dream final must be Roger Federer against Andy Murray. It’s very possible, after both men breezed through their matches on manic Monday.
Federer dismantled the excellent Grigor Dimitrov to win 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. He will play Milos Raonic in his fiftieth Grand Slam quarter-final.
The Canadian showed character to come back against Alexandr Zverev to triumph in five sets. And Federer will be hungry for revenge after Raonic beat him in last year’s semi-final.
‘This will be more of a penalty shoot-out,’ predicted Federer, who added confidently, ‘I feel rested, I’ve had, you know, not the toughest matches here so far, but I’ll bring the same intensity and focus against Raonic.’
Last year he let Raonic off the hook. This year he is unlikely to do so, while Murray should see off Sam Querrey in his own quarter-final.
Since Federer and Murray are in different sides of the draw, that dream final is shaping up nicely. And who wouldn’t want to see Murray, the local favourite, take on the most poular player the world has ever known?
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