Rafael Nadal’s Wimbledon challenge is over after losing a five-set epic at the hands of Gilles Muller, while Roger Federer marches on.
Federer and Nadal famously contested three successive Wimbledon finals between 2006 and 2008 but the Spaniard became the first of the ‘big four’ to exit the Championships as 34-year-old Muller won 6-3 6-4 3-6 4-6 15-13 in the longest match of the tournament so far at 4hrs and 48 minutes
Nadal’s defeat means another seed exits Andy Murray’s half of the draw with Nadal joining Stan Wawrinka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Kei Nishikori in dropping out.
In contrast, Federer’s serene progress continued with a demolition of Grigor Dimitrov to reach his 15th Wimbledon quarter-final but the fourth member of the big four, Novak Djokovic, was forced to wait as Nadal’s marathon on Court No 1 meant his match was postponed until Wednesday.
Nadal had been untroubled in reaching the last 16 but 16th seed Muller continued the season of his life with the biggest victory of his career having never previously gone beyond the third round at the All-England Club.
He will now face Marin Cilic who dropped just six games in beating Roberto Bautista Agut in just one hour and 41 minutes, in stark contrast to Muller’s gruelling triumph in the gathering dusk of south-west London.
The man from Luxembourg shocked the crowd by roaring into a two-set lead before the Spanish star bounced back to claim the next two and with Nadal in such brilliant form this year you felt the writing was on the wall.
But after 17 years on the Tour, Muller is having a season to remember, claiming his first two titles and serving up the sort of serve-volley tennis that would make Pete Sampras proud.
Muller was the aggressor throughout the fifth set, remaining on the front foot while Nadal’s indomitable spirit kept him going as he was forced to stay in the match throughout the decider.
Muller forced his first match points leading 6-5 and conjured another two at 10-9 but eventually, almost an hour and a half after his first, he claimed the match and a quarter-final spot when Nadal fired long to end a thrilling contest and his own quest for a 16th major and third Wimbledon.