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Friday, June 29, 2012

How Rosol Upset Nadal

Lukas Rosol shocked the tennis world yesterday defeating Rafael Nadal in the second round at Wimbledon. How did Rosol pull off the biggest win of his career? It was a combination of big tennis and fearlessness that enabled Rosol to knock Nadal out of the Championships.

Fate loves the fearless - James Russell Lowell
Rosol, ranked 100 in the world, had never won at match at Wimbledon; not in the main draw or in qualifying. Yet, he looked totally confident on Center Court. Rosol's tactics were to hit huge serves and groundstrokes and take the initiative from Nadal. Rosol's forehand and backhand were routinely clocked over 90 mph. He did not allow Nadal to control the points. Instead, Nadal was pushed back off the court in a defensive position. The "first-strike" tactic was even more effective because the grass is still slick during the first week and in the fifth set they played the match with the roof shut.

Despite going for huge shots, Rosol made 20 winners and 2 unforced errors in a super clean fifth set. It was some of the biggest, cleanest tennis I have ever seen. And, he produced this brilliant tennis after taking a 45 minute break and having to win a one set winner-takes-all against Nadal. What an incredible effort.

Rosol's attitude of going for it is exactly the kind of tennis that is needed for this kind of upset. If you try to rally with Nadal he is going to punish you. Rosol did not allow Nadal to get in to a rally. To play "first strike" tennis you have to play with great confidence. Rosol was exuding confidence by the fifth set. He knew Nadal was frustrated and that he was playing the best tennis of his life. And, instead of letting the moment get to him he went with the flow. He continued to hit out even in a pressurized fifth set.

One dynamic that aided Rosol was the fact that his expectations were not too high. He was just hoping to be competitive against Nadal, as he said in his pre-match interview. When you are not expecting to win it can take the pressure off and allow you to open up and hit out.

Still, Rosol could have tightened up as many players have in the past when in a winning position. He could have backed off his strategy and hoped that Nadal would make mistakes and give him the match. That, of course, will not happen. Nadal gives you nothing. Rosol knew he had to keep his foot on the gas pedal and he showed the courage to do so despite the inevitable tug from your brain to not blow the match. Rosol stayed aggressive and he was rewarded with the biggest upset in recent years.

Nadal's ousting opens up a tough half of the draw. Andy Murray knows he will not have to play Nadal and potentially just Djokovic or Federer to win Wimbledon. However, Murray is in the nastiest part of the draw with Roddick, Del Potro, Cilic, Raonic and Querrey all seeing an opportunity to play deep in to the second week. If Murray survives the next few rounds look for him to make the final.

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