Muller stuns Nadal in marathon Wimbledon classic

Rafael Nadal finally cracked under pressure in the final set as Gilles Muller produced the performance of his life to win an epic contest.

Gilles Muller and Rafael Nadal embrace after their Wimbledon epic that lasted four hours and 47 minutes.   -  Getty Images

Gilles Muller pulled off a huge Wimbledon shock by dumping Rafael Nadal out in a marathon fourth-round classic 12 years after his sole previous victory against the Spanish great.

Nadal did not drop a set in last month's French Open triumph, or in his first three matches at the All England Club, but he lost the first two against fellow left-hander Muller before fighting back to level an epic contest on No.1 Court.

There were no breaks in a captivating deciding set until 15-time grand slam champion Nadal finally cracked after saving four match points, with world No. 26 Muller winning 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13 in four hours and 47 minutes.

The 34-year-old from Luxembourg had never won an ATP title before claiming two this year and can look forward to facing Marin Cilic in his first quarterfinal at SW19.

Serve-and-volley specialist Muller, who fired down 30 aces to Nadal's 23 in the performance of his career, had not beaten the fourth seed since dumping him out in the second round here in 2005.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Nadal could only take two of 16 break-point opportunities and has not reached the last eight at the grass-court major since 2011, while steely 16th seed Muller's nine-year wait to reach a second major quarterfinal is over.

Nadal banged his head when jumping in the tunnel before going out on court and suffered another blow when he netted to go 4-2 down following a magnificent return from fellow left-hander Muller, a break proving to be sufficient for the composed underdog to take the lead. 

The world No. 2 won a thrilling rally with a blistering backhand which clipped the line, but Muller fended off two break points to level at 4-4 and continued to shut the Majorcan out with a mixture of brilliant serves, volleys and groundstrokes.

Nadal was in the mire when he netted tamely to go a break down at 5-4 after his opponent had a slice of luck with a net cord and Muller seized his chance to serve for a two-set lead, which was no more than he deserved.

A rampaging Nadal responded like a champion by finally breaking to take a 3-1 advantage in the third with a scorching forehand winner into the corner and combined a pump of the fists with a bellow after an errant stroke from Muller took the match into a fourth set.

Nadal's serve was also proving to be a potent weapon as he piled on the pressure to force another mistake from Muller, who netted to go 3-2 down in the fourth -  the break enabling a fired-up favourite to level the match at two sets apiece.

Nadal had the crowd gasping with a breath-taking backhand winner early in the decider and unleashed a barrage of brutal forehands, yet Muller looked assured with so much at stake behind a superb serve and volley exhibition.

An ice cool Muller had two match points when leading 5-4, but four brilliant Nadal serves kept him in it and he saved another two to level at 10-10 after failing to take four break-point opportunities in the previous game with the tension mounting.

Nadal showed great defiance, but Muller continued to look the more likely to advance and he finally showed emotion, having resembled a seasoned poker player throughout, when a couple of stray forehands from the French Open champion gave him the biggest win of his long career.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
Muller [16] bt Nadal [4] 6-3 6-4 3-6 4-6 15-13

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Muller - 95/52
Nadal - 77/17

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Muller - 30/10
Nadal - 23/2

BREAK POINTS WON
Muller - 3/8
Nadal - 2/16

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Muller - 63
Nadal - 67

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Muller - 80/48
Nadal - 80/60

TOTAL POINTS
Muller - 191
Nadal - 198