Muller could be Nadal's kryptonite

LONDON • Rafael Nadal needs no reminder of the dangers posed by left-handers from Luxembourg - after all, his first taste of defeat on Wimbledon's lawns was against one such player.

Twelve years on and that same man, Gilles Muller, could ambush the Spaniard's attempt to land a third title.

As Wimbledon swings into its second week, Nadal is looking supreme, but 34-year-old grass-court specialist Muller represents an altogether different challenge with his old-school serve-and-volley style that so bamboozled the Spaniard 12 years ago.

Of the 16 survivors in the men's draw, Muller is most likely to be seen following his serve into the net - a tactic he has employed on a quarter of his deliveries so far, racking up an impressive 82 per cent success rate.

All the more surprising considering there is not a single grass court in Luxembourg, and 16th seed Muller admits he had no clue on how to play on it at first.

"In the beginning, I had no clue what to do but after that, I got to the junior final (at Wimbledon). I fell in love with grass pretty quickly.

"I've got good memories facing Rafa here. The first time I played him here I beat him, Second time (in 2011), I lost in three sets," Muller said.

However, Muller, who was bumped up from his ATP ranking of 26 to 16th seed at Wimbledon after a superb run in the European grass-court season, believes he can tame him again.

"Of course I feel that I can beat Rafa," Muller said. " If I didn't think I could win, I would not bother going out on the court."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2017, with the headline 'Muller could be Nadal's kryptonite'. Print Edition | Subscribe