Wimbledon, England – For the second time in two years Rafael Nadal suffered one of the biggest upsets in Wimbledon history, while reigning champion and seven-time overall winner Roger Federer was an easy opening-round winner Monday at The Championships.
Last year, Nadal lost to unheralded Czech Lukas Rosol in five sets in the second round in what was arguably the biggest upset in Wimbledon history, and on Monday, he suffered his first-ever opening-round loss at a Grand Slam event when 135th-ranked Belgian Steve Darcis knocked out the former world No. 1 superstar in straight sets, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (10-8), 6-4, on Court 1 at the All England Club.
Nadal was controversially given a fifth seed for this fortnight, but that over-hyped point is now moot, as the Spanish great will not meet his long-time rival Federer in what was billed as a potential blockbuster quarterfinal next week.
Also on Monday, second-seeded British home favorite Andy Murray rolled past German Benjamin Becker 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Murray is the reigning U.S. Open champion and Aussie Open runner-up who lost to Federer in last year's marquee Wimbledon finale and then beat Federer a few weeks later in the Olympic gold- medal match here at the All England Club.
Murray is trying to give Britain its first men's Wimbledon singles champion since Fred Perry back in 1936. His second-round opponent will be Taiwan's Yen- Hsun Lu.
The 27-year-old Nadal, who appeared to be nursing a left leg injury on Monday, had been 34-0 when playing the first round of a major. He's a five-time Wimbledon finalist, including titles here in 2008 and 2010, and owns 12 Grand Slam titles overall, including his most recent one at the French Open earlier this month.
Nadal had reached finals in all nine of his previous tournaments this year, including an eighth French Open title among his seven 2013 championships. The Spanish great returned to action back in February after being sidelined with a knee injury for seven months, or right after he succumbed to Rosol here a year ago.
The last time a reigning French Open champ lost in the first round at Wimbledon was Gustavo Kuerten back in 1997.
Darcis is a 29-year-old who owns two titles on the ATP World Tour, with his last one coming in Memphis five years ago.
He played brilliant tennis on Monday, however, while Nadal struggled mightily throughout, including an extremely ineffective two-handed backhand. The stunner came to a close when Darcis swatted a resounding match-ending ace.
After losing the first set via tiebreak, a sluggish Nadal appeared as though he might get back into the match when he broke for a 5-4 lead in the second, but Darcis broke right back en route to forcing another tiebreak.
Darcis blew four set points in the second-set tiebreak, but converted on a fifth when Nadal misfired long with an errant forehand.
In the third set, Darcis opened with a break of serve and did not look back from there.
"Rafa Nadal didn't play his best tennis today," Darcis 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."
Darcis is the lowest-ranked player to beat Nadal since Joachim Johansson -- ranked No. 690th - defeated the Spaniard in 2006 in Stockholm.
Nadal did not play in any of the grass-court Wimbledon tune-ups the previous two weeks.
When asked how he felt physically after that match, Nadal said: "This is not the time to talk about these sort of things. I don't want to talk about my knee."
Darcis had been 2-6 on tour this year prior to Monday. But he's now 2-11 lifetime against top-10 performers.
When Nadal fails to reach the final at Wimbledon, he loses here early, advancing no further than the third round in four other trips.
Meanwhile, the third-seeded former world No. 1 Federer leveled Romanian veteran Victor Hanescu 6-3, 6-2, 6-0 in a mere 69 minutes. The Swiss great improved to 67-7 lifetime at Wimbledon by striking seven aces, breaking Hanescu six times and holding his quality serve throughout the brief affair.
"It's a special moment," Federer said of striding out onto Centre Court. "It doesn't really change. You feel very unique because you are the one opening the court."
The 17-time Grand Slam king Federer beat Murray in last year's Wimbledon final to tie Pete Sampras for the most men's titles here in the Open Era.
Federer's second-round opponent on Wednesday will be Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Meanwhile, sixth-seeded former Aussie Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga topped Belgian David Goffin 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 6-3 and 10th-seeded Croat Marin Cilic dismissed former Aussie Open runner-up and former Wimbledon semifinalist Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. The French Tsonga reached the semifinals in his last two trips to the AEC. Cilic was a grass-court runner-up at the Wimbledon tune-up at Queen's Club two weeks ago.
Former champion Lleyton Hewitt posted an upset of his own Monday by tackling 11th-seeded world No. 10 Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 7-5, 6-3. The former world No. 1 Hewitt is a two-time major champion, including a Wimbledon win in 2002.
The hard-hitting Wawrinka was a grass-court runner-up in The Netherlands last week.
Viktor Troicki took out 14th-seeded fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), while 15th-seeded Spaniard Nicolas Almagro erased Estonian Jurgen Zopp 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), 7-5, towering 18th-seeded American John Isner got past Russian Evgeny Donskoy 6-1, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3), and 20th-seeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny dismissed Dutchman Robin Haase 6-4, 7-5, 7-5.
In other Day-1 action involving seeds, No. 22 Argentine Juan Monaco whipped German Bastian Knittel 6-4, 6-2, 6-3; No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland pasted Brit Kyle Edmund 6-2, 6-2, 6-4; No. 25 Benoit Paire of France topped Romanian Adrian Ungur 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1; veteran Austrian left-hander Jurgen Melzer upended No. 30 Italian Fabio Fognini 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 6-3, 6-2; No. 31 Frenchman Julien Benneteau held off German Tobias Kamke 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-2; and No. 32 Spaniard Tommy Robredo drilled German Alex Bogomolov Jr. 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.
Several other men reached the second round on Monday, including last week's Den Bosch champion Nicolas Mahut of France, American Rajeev Ram, Canadian Vasek Pospisil, Latvian Ernests Gulbis, Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, Czech veteran Radek Stepanek, and German Julian Reister, who tackled last year's giant-killer Rosol in five sets.
On Tuesday, top-seeded Novak Djokovic will face German Florian Mayer in his 2013 Wimbledon opener. The Serbian star titled here in 2011 and is the reigning Aussie Open champ and U.S. Open runner-up.
Also slated for action on Day 2 are fourth-seeded French Open runner-up David Ferrer, seventh-seeded 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych and eighth-seeded former U.S. Open champ Juan Martin del Potro.