x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

How the mighty have fallen

Rafael Nadal's defeat to Robin Soderling at the French Open was a massive shock, The National looks at 10 more tennis upsets.

Albert Costa was as much a clay-court specialist as Gustavo Kuertan. Costa beat hm 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.
Albert Costa was as much a clay-court specialist as Gustavo Kuertan. Costa beat hm 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.

Rafael Nadal's exit from Roland Garros where he had ruled on all four of his previous participations, provided the French Open with its biggest shock of the open era and ranks alongside the most unexpected grand slam exits of all time. As the King of Clay, winner of all 31 of his previous matches at the tournament, comes to terms with his defeat at the hands of Sweden's Robin Soderling, we look at 10 other illustrious grand slam champions coming to untimely grief in the world's four majors since the sport went professional.

1971 US Open - Newcombe The popular John Newcombe was on a high after retaining his Wimbledon title - one of seven grand slams he captured during an excellent career - but he was brought down to earth with a bump in the opening round in New York by the artful Czech Jan Kodes. 1973 Aus Open - Rosewall Ken Rosewall, who would have won far more than eight grand slams but for the presence in his golden era of the imperious Rod Laver, was going for a hat-trick of Australian Open titles when he fell at his first hurdle, beaten in straight sets by Germany's Karl Meller.

1986 US Open - McEnroe The original Superbrat, John McEnroe, who won three Wimbledons, had triumphed four years out of six in his home major and was the beaten finalist in a seventh year before returning to be the victim of a first-round upset brought about by Paul Annacone in four sets. 1987 Wimbledon - Becker "Boom Boom" Boris Becker blasted his way into the All England Club by becoming the tournament's youngest champion in 1985 and retaining it the following year. Confident hopes of a hat-trick by the powerfully-built German teenager were shattered by Australia's Peter Doohan in the second round.

1990 US Open - Lendl The moody Czech-born player Ivan Lendl appeared in eight successive US Open finals, winning three of them, before coming up against an inspired American newcomer in Pete Sampras whose quarter-final victory that day was the launch pad for a record haul of 14 grand slams titles. 1993 US Open - Edberg The handsome Swede Stefan Edberg, champion twice in Australia, then twice at Wimbledon and then twice in New York, could not have envisaged what lay in store as the defending champion at Flushing Meadows when Karel Novacek produced an inspirational performance to spring a second-round shock.

1999 US Open - Rafter The flamboyant Patrick Rafter had taken the previous two titles at Flushing Meadows but was hampered by injury during what was a much more difficult first round match than he expected against France's Cedric Pioline and was forced to retire at the start of the deciding set. 2000 US Open - Agassi Andre Agassi had appeared in all four grand slam finals, winning three of them in the 12 months preceding a return to his own back yard of Flushing Meadows. Nobody expected him to fall in straight sets in a second-round confrontation with the eccentric Frenchman Arnaud Clement.

2001 Wimbledon - Sampras Only the Dutchman Richard Krajicek had managed to overcome Pete Sampras in eight successive tournaments on the lawns of the All England Club until a new kid on the block called Roger Federer sent the champion packing in a five-set thriller. The king is dead - long live the new king. 2002 French Open - Kuerten Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil was a predecessor to Nadal as the King of Clay and was seeking his fourth Roland Garros crown when he was dethroned by Albert Costa, a Spaniard who had an even greater liking for the slowness of the red dust. sports@thenational.ae