No. 6 Match of the Year: Muller vs. Nadal, Wimbledon

The Grandstand has compiled its list of the Top 10 Matches of the Year for 2017. Matches were ranked from a combination of Top 10 lists made by the Grandstand’s Ricky Dimon, Joey Hanf of Cliff Drysdale Tennis, voting at MensTennisForums, and Twitter user Ben Conti.

No. 6: Gilles Muller d. Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13, Wimbledon fourth round

While stretching in the tunnel before taking the court, Nadal jumped up and bumped his head on the ceiling. It was not the worst thing that happened to him on the second Monday at Wimbledon. After all, the incident was nothing more than a laughing matter for both players. What transpired between the lines was far more serious–and more of a blow to Nadal.

Muller was already a well-respected force on grass, with a title in ‘s-Hertogenbosch a few weeks earlier, two grass-court runner-up showings in 2016, and a 2005 upset of Nadal at the All-England Club. Of course, that came before the Spaniard established himself as a two-time Wimbledon champion. Muller’s second victory over him was more impressive and more momentous.

It was also more difficult. Muller needed five match points in three different games before crossing the finish line in the wake of four hours and 47 minutes of tension-filled tennis.

Just a single break decided each of the five sets–even in a 28-game marathon fifth. It was the Luxembourgian who got the best of the first two frames, with Nadal responding in the fourth and fifth. Both left-handers then had plenty of opportunities throughout the decider. Muller played from ahead because he served first, and the No. 16 seed earned two match points when his opponent served at 4-5 and two more at 9-10. Nadal generated one break point of his own at 6-6 and a quartet at 9-9, but Muller came up with the goods on every crucial occasion.

It finally ended at 13-14, 15-40, when the underdog converted his fifth match points thanks to a forehand by Nadal that sailed long.

Interview and analysis:

“I haven’t really realized what just happened,” Muller said after getting the job done just before darkness fell. “It’s a great feeling. I was thinking about if I had to come back next day to finish the match; I am just pleased to get it finished and be in the quarterfinals. I was two sets up, played really well, and then Rafa stepped it up. At the end it was just a big battle.

“(It’s) definitely the biggest win (of my career), I would say. I had a big (elbow) injury in 2013 and wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to come back. I’ve played many great matches since then, but this is definitely the biggest victory since I came back–especially at this stage of a Grand Slam, playing one of the guys who is dominating tennis again this year.”

“It’s difficult to come back after being down two sets against a player like him,” Nadal explained. “I think I did well. I had good chances in the fifth set, but he had more chances than me. So maybe he deserved it a little more than me.”

4 Comments on No. 6 Match of the Year: Muller vs. Nadal, Wimbledon

  1. This and the Fedal AO final were maybe the most excited and engaged I’ve ever been watching a live match on TV. Definitely the two most engaging matches of the season alone.

    • Most engaging IMO of course. Muller Nadal not in my top two though. Gotta give Nadal v Dimitrov that number two spot.

    • Totally agree with you Benny, it was an absolute thriller match. For sure if Rafa’s gonna win that match, no way he could lose the first two sets, where he played very tentative. He started to play better after that,however, in order to recover from two sets down he spent himself physically out there while Muller saved himself and was fresher for the fifth set. In the end,as a Rafa fan, it was a painful defeat as I believed he could complete the comeback after he leveled the match.
      However, Muller was in God mode serving that day and displayed an absolutely masterclass performance, probably the match of his career and I take my hat off for him.

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