LONDON: Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams will hope to avoid the same fate as Rafael Nadal on Tuesday as Wimbledon comes to terms with one of the most stunning upsets in All England Club history.
Nadal, a two-time Wimbledon champion, arrived in southwest London tipped for another title after winning a record eighth French Open crown earlier this month.
But the Spaniard was sent packing on the opening day as unheralded Belgian Steve Darcis shocked the 12-time Grand Slam champion with a sensational 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (10/8), 6-4 victory on Court One.
Darcis is ranked 135 in the world and had won just two ATP Tour matches this year, making it the most humiliating defeat of Nadal’s career.
The loss, which followed Nadal’s second round shocker at the hands of Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic at last year’s Wimbledon, brought to an end his 22-match winning streak in 2013.
“That is sport, sometimes you play well and you have the chance to win, sometimes you play worse and you lose,” Nadal said.
“For me, there were not a lot of things good, but I congratulate Darcis. This is not the right day (to talk about his knee injuries). I tried my best in every moment, but this was not right for me.”
With the reverberations from Nadal’s depature still being felt across Wimbledon, all eyes will be on Djokovic and Serena, both current world number ones, when they make their tournament bows.
The duo will hope to follow the examples of Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova, who all cruised to straight sets victories on Centre Court on Monday.
Serena takes on Luxembourg’s Mandy Minella in Tuesday’s Centre Court opener, with the American hoping her recent war of words with Sharapova won’t prove a bad omen as she aims to win Wimbledon for a sixth time.
Williams made controversial comments about Sharapova’s relationship with Bulgarian player Grigor Dimitrov in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, prompting an angry response from the Russian and forcing Serena to apologise to her rival.
The spat over-shadowed Serena’s Wimbledon build-up, but few would bet against her maintaining her vice-like grip on the women’s game.
Since losing at Roland Garros in the first round last year, Serena has won 74 of her 77 matches, an incredible run that has brought her the Wimbledon, US and French Open titles and an Olympic gold medal.
“Maybe I wasn’t focused enough in the past on tennis. I’m definitely going to try to focus on that for the next two weeks,” Serena said.
Djokovic, the 2011 Wimbledon winner and reigning Australian Open champion, is second on Centre Court against Germany’s Florian Mayer.
The Serb took time off after losing a French Open semi-final epic against Nadal and he is confident of bouncing back with a strong run at Wimbledon.
“The consolation is that there is no bigger motivation than playing in the most prestigious tournament in the world in our sport,” he said.
“It is the one I always dreamt of winning and it was the highlight of my career. I love playing in Wimbledon, the grass is the most special surface in our sport.”
David Ferrer, thrashed by Nadal in the French Open final, concludes the Centre Court schedule against Martin Alund of Argentina.
Former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro takes on Spain’s Albert Ramos on Court One, while Tomas Berdych, the Czech seventh seed and a 2010 Wimbledon runner-up, begins his campaign Slovakia’s against Martin Klizan.