The crowd cheered at full volume for his winners in the latter stages of the 15-13 fifth set, and Nadal encouraged them to get involved by roaring in their direction and throwing his arms in the air. In the final games between Nadal and Muller, Court No. 1 resembled an arena rock concert more than a tennis match.
“It was a great feeling. Great atmosphere. I put everything on the court. I played with all my passion and the crowd normally appreciates that,” said Nadal. “Just thanks for the support. I tried. I’m sorry for the crowd that were supporting me, but it was great to feel all their support.”
But for Nadal, looking back at his missed opportunities provided less of a positive feeling. The Spaniard produced high-level tennis on the day, hitting 77 winners to 17 errors. However, he hit only 17 winners in the first two sets as Muller often dictated the rallies. Nadal also went two for 16 on break point chances, including four break points at 9-9 in the deciding set.
Although he wasn’t happy with all aspects of his tennis, the two-time Wimbledon champion said he was pleased with how he competed for the nearly five hours of play.
“He played well. I think I didn’t play my best the first two sets. I made a couple mistakes that made me then play against the score all the time, and that’s so difficult against a player like him,” said Nadal. “So well done for him. Especially in the fifth set, he played great. I was there and fought until the last ball with the right attitude. It probably wasn’t my best match, but at the same time I played against a very uncomfortable opponent.”
After a nearly flawless clay-court season that saw him capture his 10th crowns at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and Roland Garros, it was somewhat expected that Nadal would experience a letdown at some point this season. His success at Roland Garros has been followed by surprise losses at the All England Club in recent years, but it appeared that Nadal was in position to reverse that trend this year after cruising through his first three rounds without the loss of a set.
Nadal made the second week here for the only the second time since 2011, but also made it clear that he expected far more from himself this fortnight.
“I lost in the fourth round. That’s not the result that I was expecting. It’s true that I played some good matches, but at the same time, I didn’t want to lose that match. So it is tough to analyse that in a positive way right now,” said Nadal. “I won matches and played better than other years. But at the same time, I was ready for important things, so I lost an opportunity.”