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Nadal bows out after Wimbledon epic

Tennis

Rafael Nadal's Wimbledon campaign is over following a dramatic four-hour, 48-minute fourth-round loss to 34-year-old world No.26 Gilles Muller.

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The newly-crowned 10-time French Open champion and world No.2 hadn’t dropped a set – let alone a match – in two months before falling 6-3 6-4 3-6 4-6 15-13 to Luxembourg’s daring left-handed serve-volleyer.

An inspired Muller blasted 30 aces and 95 winners to stun spectators on Court 1 at The All England and reach just the second grand slam quarter-final of his 13-year career.

Muller, who will play Croatian Marin Cilic next on Wednesday, could barely believe he’d taken out one of the game’s all-time greats.

“It’s a great feeling to be winning that match. At the end, it was just a big battle,” the journeyman said.

“I haven’t realised what’s happened. I’m just glad it’s over and I’m in the quarter-finals.”

The epic finished just after 8.30pm local time and Muller admitted he thought he’d need to come back tonight to complete it when Nadal fought back from two sets down and staved off four match points in the tension-filled fifth.

In extraordinary scenes, the chair umpire even asked fans in the back row of the arena to stand up to shield a reflection from the setting sun that was bothering Nadal as he went to serve to stay in the match at 10-11.

But there was no denying Muller as he finally prevailed on his fifth match point to join Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer as the only men to have conquered the 15-times major winner twice at the same grand slam event.

Muller also toppled Nadal at the All England Club in 2005, while Hewitt enjoyed wins over the mighty Majorcan at the Australian Open in 2004 and 2005 before Federer beat his great rival in the 2006 and 2007 Wimbledon finals.

TV footage caught Nadal hitting his head on the roof with his energetic pre-match jumping but the warm-up mishap didn’t hurt half as much as his fifth straight defeat before the quarter-finals on London’s hallowed grass, since losing the 2011 title match to Novak Djokovic.

“I lost in the fourth round. That’s not the result that I was expecting,” Nadal said after falling short in his bid to complete the third French Open-Wimbledon double of his career.

“I didn’t want to lose that match. So it is tough to analyse that in a positive way right now.

“I played better than other years, true. At the same time I was ready for important things, so I lost an opportunity.”

Nadal was full of praise for Muller and vowed to return next year in pursuit of a third title

“I was there, fought until the last ball, with the right attitude. Probably was not my best match, but at the same time I played against a very uncomfortable opponent,” he said.

“I want to come back because I want to play more times on the Centre Court.”

-AAP

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