Rafael Nadal became the highest-profile casualty of this year’s Wimbledon after slumping to a 7-5 3-6 6-4 6-4 defeat to dreadlocked German Dustin Brown.
Tenth seed Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion in SW19, had lost his only previous encounter with Brown on grass in Halle last year and he fell to the flamboyant world No 102 once again.
Brown’s unconventional style included shots that will not be found in any tennis coaching manual, but it made for a thrilling spectacle against the out-of-form Spaniard, who had been a possible quarter-final opponent for Andy Murray.
“I’ve never been on Centre Court before. I thought I’d freak out a bit, but I felt very familiar here,” Brown said.
“Being on grass and having beaten him before made me feel more comfortable.
“I had nothing to lose, which made it easier for me. I went for my shots. My plan was to come here and play good tennis.
“You have to play your A-game when you’re playing against him.
“I’m very lucky in that I’ve played him twice on my favourite surface. I wouldn’t want to play him on any other surface.”
Centre Court spectators were torn between cheering the ever-popular Nadal, an enduring favourite, or the showman Brown, who revealed a large tattoo of reggae singer Dennis Brown on his torso when changing his top.
Instead, the crowd chose to savour a roller-coaster second-round tie that produced drama throughout, even when Brown was building momentum in the final two sets.
Nadal refused to view his Wimbledon second-round defeat as a signpost pointing towards the end of his career.
The Spaniard has now failed to progress beyond the fourth round of Wimbledon since appearing in the final in 2011 and has not reached the semi-final of a grand slam since winning the French Open last year.
“Obviously this is a bad moment for me. I need to accept these kind of things that can happen. I have done that all my career,” he said. “I’ll keep going – it’s not the end. It’s a sad moment, but life continues. My career too. I have to keep going and working more than ever to try to change that dynamic.
“I’m a good loser. When I don’t play that well, I always accept it. I am not happy, but I accept that I am not enough good.”