Wimbledon, England (Sports Network) - For the second time in two years Rafael Nadal suffered a shocking early exit at Wimbledon, where 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 arguably the biggest upset in Wimbledon history, and on Monday, he suffered his first-ever opening-round loss at a Grand Slam event when 103rd-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.
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 throughout, including an ineffective two-handed backhand. The stunner came to a close when Darcis swatted a resounding match-ending ace.
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 British favorite Andy Murray in last year's Wimbledon final to tie Pete Sampras for the most men's titles here in the Open Era.
"He seems the most natural on this surface of the other guys," Federer said of Murray. "To me Andy sort of stands out a little bit over the others."
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.
Viktor Troicki took out 14th-seeded fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), while 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; and veteran Austrian left-hander Jurgen Melzer upended No. 30 Italian Fabio Fognini 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.
The Sports Network