Nadal advances at WimbledonThe King of Clay passed up a chance to meet the Queen of England. Rafael Nadal had another priority — winning at Wimbledon. Queen Elizabeth II visited the All England Club for the first time since 1977 and met a small group of current and former players, including Roger Federer and the Williams sisters. Nadal was invited, but his practice schedule conflicted, and he wanted to be in top form for his second-round match later Thursday.
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — The King of Clay passed up a chance to meet the Queen of England.
Rafael Nadal had another priority — winning at Wimbledon.
Queen Elizabeth II visited the All England Club for the first time since 1977 and met a small group of current and former players, including Roger Federer and the Williams sisters. Nadal was invited, but his practice schedule conflicted, and he wanted to be in top form for his second-round match later Thursday.
Hours after the queen departed, Nadal took Centre Court and beat Robin Haase 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3. British tabloids may take the five-time French Open champion to task, but he defended his decision to put practice ahead of royalty.
“I am playing in Wimbledon. It’s not a joke. I love this tournament,” Nadal said. “I have a lot of respect for the queen. I have a lot of respect for this tournament. Today is a match day for me, no? So I have my things to do.”
Everything, however, overshadowed by the completion of the longest match in tennis history. Isner hit 112 aces to beat Nicolas Mahut in a marathon that took more than 11 hours to complete over three days.
The score that broke the Court 18 scoreboard at one point: 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68.
“Amazing match,” Nadal said. “They make history, I think.”
The top-ranked Nadal is trying to do the same playing at Wimbledon for the first time since winning the 2008 title. He missed last year’s tournament because of knee tendinitis but may be poised for a strong run after another undefeated clay-court season, capped by his latest Roland Garros title.
Haase, a big-serving Dutchman who has been plagued by knee injuries, has fans buzzing about the possibility of an upset. He hit four aces in one game and led after winning two tight sets.
“I was playing well all the time,” Nadal said. “I played probably four bad points in two sets, and I lose both sets.”
So the Spaniard stepped things up, pounded his groundstrokes into the corners and scampering all over the court. When he hit a lunging lob to break for a 3-1 lead in the final set, he celebrated with a running, spinning leap as he threw his fist — a knockout punch of sorts.
“Mentally I think I was perfect in the fourth and in the fifth sets,” Nadal said.
The day began with royal ritual, and the queen watched from the front row as Murray defeated Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Murray, seeded fourth, is trying to become the first British player to win Wimbledon since the queen watched Virginia Wade win the women’s final 33 years ago.
Shortly after the queen took her seat, Murray and Nieminen walked onto the court. They turned toward her and simultaneously bowed as the crowd roared. When Murray closed out the win, the queen joined the applause.
“I’m sure everyone thought it was a great occasion,” Murray said. “I don’t know whether she’ll be coming in the next few years, but I definitely enjoyed it.”
The queen emerged from a car near the club’s practice courts an hour before the day’s first matches, and walked toward Centre Court along a walkway lined with spectators. When she reached the members’ lawn, she met several current and former players, including ex-Wimbledon champions Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King.
“She said, ‘Oh, you’ve been coming here a long time,”‘ King said. “And I said, ‘Yes, 49 years in a row,’ and she goes, ‘Oh, that’s wonderful.’ ... It was really an honor and a big thrill for me, because it is on my bucket list.”
Nadal wasn’t asked about his bucket list, but this week it apparently starts with winning Wimbledon.