- POSTED: 26 Jun 2014 17:35
- UPDATED: 26 Jun 2014 19:39
Rafael Nadal gets the opportunity to avenge one of his career's most humiliating defeats when he faces Lukas Rosol for a place in the Wimbledon third round Thursday.
LONDON: Rafael Nadal gets the opportunity to avenge one of his career's most humiliating defeats when he faces Lukas Rosol for a place in the Wimbledon third round Thursday.
Two years after the unheralded Czech sent Nadal crashing to a shock second round loss, the pair meet again at the same stage of the tournament with the two-time champion Spaniard aware that Rosol poses a serious threat to his hopes of progressing towards a 15th major.
"Rosol is a very dangerous player, very strong, very powerful shots from the baseline and I know I have to play very well if I want to have chances to win," said Nadal, whose second round exit in 2012 was followed by a first round loss in 2013 to Belgian journeyman Steve Darcis.
Rosol was 100 in the world when he stunned the Spaniard two years ago; now he is 52 although since his famous triumph at the All England Club he has managed to win just three more times at the Grand Slams.
"What is past is past. What happened, happened. We don't want to change that. The only way to try something is try to change what's happening right now," added Nadal, whose loss to Rosol sparked a seven-month injury lay-off from the tour.
Rosol says he will have nothing to fear from Nadal and was confident of pulling off another upset when they open play on Centre Court.
"It's Nadal who has to win, I have nothing to lose," Rosol told Czech media at Wimbledon.
Although Nadal gained a small degree of revenge at Doha this year with a comfortable straight sets win, Rosol believes his rival is at his most vulnerable in the early rounds.
"Nadal is the king of clay," he said in deference to the Spaniard's nine French Open titles.
"But he is more vulnerable on other surfaces, especially grass. If you want to beat one of the big stars at a Grand Slam, the early rounds are the best."
Toni Nadal, the coach and uncle of Nadal, said his nephew is fitter and healthier than two years ago.
"Rafa is better now than he was in 2012. He had many problems when he arrived at Wimbledon. He struggled in every practice, he couldn't go down on his knees, which is important on grass, and his mentality was not good enough for that reason," Toni told the BBC.
"But now he has good movement and not much pain. He is the number one in the world and that should give him some confidence. Of course, Rafa can lose because Rosol is a good player and he has a good serve, but I hope Rafa is good enough to beat him."
Veteran US coach Nick Bollettieri, the man who guided the careers of the likes of Andre Agassi and Maria Sharapova, also believes Nadal will win but that the Spaniard's "wham-bam Superman style" won't last forever.
"I think he is capable of winning the title again but will his legs hold up? Will his lower back cope with the stresses and strains of playing on grass?," wrote Bollettieri in his columm for the Independent newspaper.
Seven-time champion Roger Federer is also in action Thursday taking on 31-year-old Luxembourg qualifier Gilles Muller.
Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka, the fifth seed, faces Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan who made the quarter-finals in 2010.
Wawrinka is bidding to record back-to-back match-wins at Wimbledon for the first time since 2009.
Women's top seed and five-time champion Serena Williams plays South Africa's Chanelle Scheepers while 2004 champion Maria Sharapova takes on Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky.