Nadal battles through but rues missed Royal appointment
London: Rafa Nadal`s focus on winning Wimbledon again meant he would not change his pre-match routine to meet Queen Elizabeth, and at moments on Thursday the Spaniard will have been immensely grateful for the extra preparation.
Nadal, the 2008 winner, was on the guest list but was busy fine-tuning his game when the monarch met a string of tennis champions past and present before lunch on her first visit to the green lawns since 1977.
Nadal was third up on Centre Court and the Queen had long since left by the time the world number one began his second-round clash against Dutchman Robin Haase.
The unheralded Haase engaged Nadal in a street scrap, bloodying his nose before the mighty Mallorcan returned the blows with interest to restore order and reach the third round with a 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 victory.
Nadal expressed disappointment at not being able to keep his royal appointment, and even more so the Queen was not present to watch him play.
"It was disappointing for me. But, you know, the (Wimbledon) Club knows I have my routines before the match. I had to practice around 12, so was impossible for me," Nadal told a news conference.
"Seriously I thought the Queen was going to be in my match, and I would love to have had the chance to meet her after the match. But it wasn`t possible because I think the Queen left before. For me it was disappointing."
Asked if he would change his routine for anyone, Nadal replied: "It`s not a joke. I love this tournament. I have a lot of respect for the Queen. I have a lot of respect for this tournament. It was always my dream play here."
Had she been there, the Queen would have witnessed all of Nadal`s battling qualities.
The 24-year-old revels in adversity and fights fire with fire when the chips are down.
He needed to as the big-serving Haase, better than his ranking of 151 would suggest after a promising career was blighted by a long-term knee injury, threatened to nail the first big shock of the tournament after Colombian Alejandro Falla blew his big chance when two sets to the good against Roger Federer on the same court on Monday.
Haase seized his chances at key moments to take a 2-1 lead in sets, the unshaven, tousled 23-year old, sidelined by a knee injury for the first 10 months of 2009, invigorated by his surroundings on the showpiece court.
It only inspired Nadal to raise his game.
"On this surface, it was very difficult to stop him," Nadal said of his opponent.
"I`m very happy to win in five sets. Everybody prefers to win in three, but is not possible a lot of times, especially on this surface because it all depends on a few points.”
"I played probably four bad points in two sets and I lost both sets. But mentally I think I was perfect in the fourth and in the fifth."