Nadal crashes out of Wimbledon after epic five-set loss to Muller
Rafael Nadal has crashed out of Wimbledon after a dramatic, marathon five-set defeat to Gilles Muller.
The Spaniard, a two-time winner at SW19, had hauled himself back from two sets down against the 16th seed from Luxembourg to take their last-16 encounter to a decider.
But Muller, who was the first player to beat a raw Nadal at Wimbledon back in 2005, repeated the trick 12 years later by triumphing 15-13 in an epic fifth set which lasted two and a quarter hours.
As well as completing a personal double, Muller added his name to those of Lukas Rosol, Steve Darcis, Nick Kyrgios and Dustin Brown in sending Nadal towards an early departuret in recent years.
Nadal has looked more like the player who won in 2010 than the one who suffered those meek exits.
A true warrior, the fourth seed successfully served to stay in the match a remarkable nine times, but the 10th proved too much even for him.
Muller, who has won more matches on grass than any other player so far this year, troubled Nadal with his thunderous serve and penetrating volleys throughout.
The French Open champion had not dropped any of his last 28 sets in grand slams, but suddenly Muller had taken two off him.
Nadal drew on all his experience to dig deep to draw level, only to find himself facing two match points at 4-5 in the decider against an equally resolute opponent.
But two big first serves, and two aces, averted that particular crisis but Muller was still serving the better of the two.
That was until the 18th game of a marathon final set when, having got to deuce, Nadal chiselled out four break points.
A Muller double fault on the fourth, correctly overruled by umpire Ali Nili, served to ramp up the tension yet further as the underdog held.
Nadal saved two match points in the next, and when he came out to serve for the 22nd game he complained to Nili about the reflection of part of the Court One stand - prompting the unusual sight of the umpire asking spectators to stand in front of it.
Still the players battled on until 28th game of a gruelling, but absorbing contest.
After four hours and 48 minutes - exactly the same time the memorable 2008 final between Nadal and Roger Federer lasted - Muller eeked out a fifth match point.
Nadal put a forehand long and found himself on the wrong end of an incredible a 6-3 6-4 3-6 4-6 15-13 scoreline.