RAFAEL NADAL’S hopes of a hat-trick of Wimbledon titles are over for another year after he crashed to defeat in a five-set thriller against Gilles Muller.

The Spanish star just fell short of staging a remarkable comeback from two sets down as Muller took the match 6-3 6-4 3-6 4-6 15-13 in a match that lasted  4hrs48mins.

The two-time champion’s miserable run at SW19 continued as he extended his run of failing to make it to the quarter finals to six years.

The number four seed was blown away in the first two sets by Luxembourg’s big-serving Muller and at the stage the match looked to be heading for a quick finish.

But Nadal summoned the depth of his courage and ability to turn the fourth round tie around with some blistering strokes to level at two-apiece.

And in a thrilling final set with both players throwing everything at it, it was Muller who came through to secure a last-eight clash with big-serving Marin Cilic.

The left-hander broke the Spaniard midway through the first set and with Nadal’s attempts to pressure the service game of his opponent floundering, Muller was able to see out the first set with ease.

The Spaniard was struggling to impose his usual dominance from the baseline, and that meant he was finding it hard to find a chink in the Muller serve.


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The two players shake hands at the end of their match that lasted nearly five hoursCredit: Getty Images
Things got off to a bad start for Rafael Nadal before the match as he smashed his head on the ceiling

That was putting huge pressure on the Nadal serve, and when it mattered most in game ten of the second set Muller came up trumps again to secure the break and set up the upset.

With Nadal in deep trouble, the Court One crowd suddenly started to get behind the struggling Spaniard and it looked to inspire him to dig deep.

And for the first time in the match he started to find his best form as Muller started to tighten up with a big upset in sight, securing an early break.

He needed three attempts to secure the set, and the roar that greeted making it 2-1 suggested he fancied the task of staging a comeback.

And when he battered Muller in the fourth to level at two sets apiece, the hard work had been done and the quarter-finals were in sight for Nadal with Muller way off the pace.

Bang to frights

RAFAEL NADAL wanted to make a big hit at Wimbledon this year – but not by almost knocking himself out.

The two-time winner almost did himself damage before he even set foot on court for his fourth round tie against big-serving Gilles Muller.

Nadal was going through his last limbering up exercises as he waited in the corridor with Muller before he walked out on Court One.

Unfortunately for the 31-year-old he wasn’t quite in the right area to be leaping around.

Just as he practised jumping from a squatted position all he succeeded in doing was banging his head on the low doorframe he was standing under.

The Wimbledon steward behind him did well to stifle his laughs as the 14-time Grand Slam winner gave the top of his head a quick rub.

Clearly the thud of skull connecting with wood was loud enough for veteran Luxembourg player Muller to hear, as he turned round to see what was going on.

Fortunately for Nadal there was no lasting damage and he was able to laugh it off with his opponent before they walked out in front of the unsuspecting crowd.

Reporting by Duncan Wright at Wimbledon

But Muller lifted himself back up off the floor and the two traded some excellent tennis in a thrilling final set with neither player prepared to give an inch.

Then Muller made his move in the tenth game, and a double fault set up two match points – only for Nadal to save them and then go on to take the game.

The players traded blows again and again, and in the 20th game Nadal was forced to save two more match points as Muller stood on the brink of victory.

But there was to be no escape in the 28th game of the set as Nadal hit a forehand long and Muller stood triumphant.


Since losing to Novak Djokovic in the 2011 final, Nadal has failed to make it past the fourth round at Wimbledon.

His run of misery is…

  • 2012 – Second round defeat to Lukas Rosol
  • 2013 – First round defeat to Steve Darcis
  • 2014 – Fourth round defeat to Nick Kyrgios
  • 2015 – Second round defeat to Dustin Brown
  • 2016 – Didn't compete

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