July 2, 2015
John McEnroe has claimed that Rafael Nadal, defeated by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon, may never be quite the same player again.
The controversial McEnroe, famous for his outbursts as a player at Wimbledon, doubts we will see Nadal ever hit the same heights he did in his prime.
Commentating on Brown’s stunning 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, victory over the two-time Wimbledon champion, McEnroe was asked if Nadal had lost his best tennis forever and replied: ‘That’s the million-dollar question, because once you lose it, it’s tough to get it back, and clearly at the moment it’s not there.
‘And the players feel it, and they feed off that, and they sense an opponent who was once so great, unsure of himself.’
A little later, McEnroe appeared to realise the enormity of what he had suggested. He backtracked slightly, adding: ‘I do believe he’ll win more majors, even though that aura’s been lost, I do think he’ll get it back, not to the level he had up until last year, but I do believe he’ll win more majors…he is one of the greatest players who has ever lived.’
But once again the underlying message from McEnroe was that one of Rafa’s very greatest assets, the ability to intimidate his opponents, may now have to be considered a thing of the past, even if he might yet summon enough power and experience to take a Slam at some point in the future.
World number 102 Brown didn’t show a trace of fear and didn’t show too much respect for the 14-time Grand Slam champion either. The man who works to a tight budget and spent years travelling the tennis circuit in a camper van could scarcely take in his achievement.
Brown said, ‘I’ve never been on Centre Court before and I thought I might freak out a bit, but actually it felt familiar. And it is easy to play my game against someone like Rafa, because I have nothing to lose. I kept saying, ‘Justin, just try to concentrate and get through it somehow.
‘You have to play your A-Game when you’re playing against Rafa and my A-Game, when it works, makes him not play his best game at all. But to be honest I was never thinking past tonight.’
Roger Federer and Andy Murray had much easier rides with simple wins, while in the women’s singles Sabine Lisicki charmed Wimbledon with another win and more smiles to evoke memories of her amazing run to the final two years ago.
Nadal will go away, regroup and hope to discover his best tennis once more. He would no doubt dearly love to prove the doubters wrong some time soon. And Rafa fans the world over will be supporting his bid to hit those former heights and thrill us all over again. He has been written off and bounced back before. If anyone can do it, Nadal can.