Rafael Nadal was stunningly upset in the first round at Wimbledon on Monday 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 by Belgian Steve Darcis, who entered the match ranked No. 135 in the world. It was Nadal’s first time losing in the first round of a grand slam.
Prior to Monday, Nadal was enjoying a great year. The Spaniard returned to action in February after a seven-month absence because of a knee injury. He reached the finals of all nine tournament he played, won seven of them, and entered Wimbledon 43-2 on the year. His strong play this year — highlighted by winning the French Open earlier in the month — had ESPN analyst John McEnroe singing the Spaniard’s praises.
In fact, during a roundtable for ESPN prior to the match, McEnroe even said he was leaning towards Nadal as the greatest player ever.
“This guy is to me, I think you can make an argument right here and now, the greatest player that ever lived,” McEnroe said of Nadal. “If you look at [Rafael Nadal's] record against [Andy] Murray, [Roger] Federer, and [Novak] Djokovic, it’s way better than that.
“He won the Olympics. He’s got Davis Cups — which Roger doesn’t have. I have always said Roger Federer to me was the greatest player that ever lived — certainly the most beautiful player. But I’m going to tell you right here and now there’s a definite argument, I’m starting to lean toward Rafa.”
Despite saying he now leans towards calling Nadal the greatest player ever, McEnroe only gave Nadal the third or fourth-best chance of winning Wimbledon.
To show how much conviction McEnroe had for his bold statement, he even stuck to his declaration after Nadal lost in the first round.