Rafael Nadal must have realised it wasn’t going to be his day at Wimbledon when he bashed his head against a door frame performing a warm-up leap in the bowels of Court One as he prepared to face Gilles Muller on Monday.
Almost five hours later, the great Spaniard was nursing a weighty dose of hurt pride as yet another Wimbledon campaign slipped away from him.
His dramatic 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13 fourth round defeat against Luxembourg’s 16th seed Muller was his fifth exit before the quarter-finals in his last five visits to the All England Club.
It was a heartbreaking blow for Nadal who arrived at the tournament fresh from a record-setting 10th French Open title with genuine belief that he could capture a third Wimbledon title and a 16th career major.
Despite his disappointment, and what appeared a valedictory wave to all corners of the shell-shocked court, the 31-year-old insisted he will be back in 2018.
“I never said I am not going to come back. I want to come back because I want to play more times in the Centre Court,” said Nadal.
Nadal feels he owes his fans a successful last hurrah at a tournament where he has also been runner-up on three occasions.
“Great feeling. Great atmosphere. I put everything on the court. I played with all my passion. The crowd normally appreciate that,” said the 2008 and 2010 champion.
“Sorry for the crowd that were supporting me.”
World number two Nadal converted just two of 16 break points, while Muller fired 30 aces and 95 winners.