Spanish great Rafael Nadal has crashed out of Wimbledon in spectacular fashion, after a dramatic four-hour, 48-minute fourth-round loss to 34-year-old world No.26 Gilles Muller.
The newly-crowned 10-time French Open champion and world No.2 hadn’t dropped a set – let alone a match – in two months, before falling 6-3 6-4 3-6 4-6 15-13 to Luxembourg’s left-handed serve-volleyer.
The match was a titanic struggle that included 53 aces and 389 points, with Muller having had five match points before finally closing it out in the epic fifth set which went to 15-13.
An inspired Muller blasted 30 aces and 95 winners to stun spectators on Court 1 at The All England and reach just the second grand slam quarter-final of his 13-year career.
Muller, who will play Croatian Marin Cilic next on Wednesday, could barely believe he’d taken out one of the game’s all-time greats.
“It’s a great feeling to be winning that match. At the end, it was just a big battle,” the journeyman said.
Muller v Nadal highlights
The epic finished just after 8.30pm local time and Muller admitted he thought he’d need to come back on Tuesday to complete it when Nadal fought back from two sets down and staved off four match points in the tension-filled fifth.
In extraordinary scenes, the chair umpire even asked fans in the back row of the arena to stand up to shield a reflection from the setting sun that was bothering Nadal as he went to serve to stay in the match at 10-11.
But there was no denying Muller as he finally prevailed on his fifth match point to join Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer as the only men to have conquered the 15-times major winner twice at the same grand slam event.
Muller also toppled Nadal at the All England Club in 2005, while Hewitt enjoyed wins over the Spaniard at the Australian Open in 2004 and 2005 before Federer beat his great rival in the 2006 and 2007 Wimbledon finals.
Roger Federer has become the most prolific men’s quarter-finalist in Wimbledon history with a brutal straight-sets dismissal of Grigor Dimitrov.
The seven-times champion and 10-times finalist needed barely 90 minutes to join top-seeded titleholder Andy Murray in the last eight with a 6-4 6-2 6-4 fourth-round triumph.
Federer committed just 11 unforced errors and dropped serve only once in swatting aside the Bulgarian 13th seed for the sixth time in as many meetings.
His 15 appearances in the quarter-finals of tennis’s showpiece surpass Jimmy Connors’ open-era mark.
He next faces sixth seed Milos Raonic, the Canadian who ousted the 18-times grand slam champion in last year’s semi-finals after Federer fell awkwardly in the fifth set and suffered what proved a season-ending knee injury.
Raonic battled back from two sets to one down to deny rising German 10th seed Alexander Zverev his maiden grand slam quarter-final entry with a 4-6 7-5 4-6 7-4 6-1 escape.
Murray earlier saw off Frenchman Benoit Paire in straight sets to qualify for his 10th consecutive quarter-final at The All England Club.
Murray will play Sam Querrey on Wednesday for a place in the semi-finals after the big-serving American outlasted South Africa’s Kevin Anderson 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 6-7 (11-13) 6-3 in five sets.
Dark horse Marin Cilic progressed to his fourth straight Wimbledon quarter-final with an impressive straight-sets win over 18th seed Roberto Bautista-Agut.
The Croatian seventh seed overpowered the Spaniard 6-2 6-2 6-2 to book a last-eight meeting on Wednesday against either two-time champion Rafael Nadal or Gilles Muller.
Former finalist Tomas Berdych is also through to the last eight following a hard-fought 6-3 6-7 (1-7) 6-3 3-6 6-3 victory over Austrian eighth seed Dominic Thiem.