Gilles Muller’s best-ever run at Wimbledon continues after an instant classic Manic Monday shocker. The No. 16 seed defeated two-time Wimbledon champ and No. 4 seed Rafael Nadal, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13. It’s Muller’s second-ever win over Nadal, the first coming way back in 2005, and it came in spectacular fashion.
Muller’s well-placed serves and dizzying array of slicing groundstrokes and masterful drop shots kept Nadal off balance all match. Though not a big server, Muller recorded 30 aces, mostly catching the Spaniard leaning one way and then going the other. The grass court specialist also used his patented serve-and-volley game to his advantage, winning 79 percent of his net points.
Muller cruised through the first two sets, getting an early break in the first and a late break in the second to put Nadal in a deep hole. But the 15-time Slam champion came roaring back after looking dead in the water. He decided to stand further back on Muller’s serve. The strategy worked wonders. After winning 88 percent of his first serve points in Set 1 and 81 in Set 2, Muller won just 71 and 74 percent in Sets 3 and 4, respectively. As Nadal figured out the serve, he grew both more confident and more animated.
For the entire fifth set up to the deciding game, both men held serve. But it wasn’t without close calls. At 5-6, Nadal staved off two match points, shouting as he finished off the game with a raucous crowd behind him. Muller won four break points at 9-9. Then Nadal saved two match points again serving at 9-10 and later put the game away on a spectacular drop shot at the net. Finally, up 14-13 and with two match points in front of him, Muller put his opponent away, forcing a Nadal error. After 4 hours, 48 minutes of fantastic tennis, Muller was through.
It’s undoubtedly the biggest win of Muller’s career, and a truly incredible feat at the age of 34. The Luxembourg native fell all the way to No. 368 in 2013 after injuries and inconsistent play. But the veteran’s abilities on grass helped him grab the No. 16 seed at Wimbledon and pull off the biggest shock on the men’s side so far this tournament. He’ll face No. 7 Marin Cilic in the quarterfinal.