LONDON >> Two-time champion Rafael Nadal is making another early exit from Wimbledon, after losing in the second round to a 102nd-ranked qualifier who played the match of his life.
Dustin Brown, a German of Jamaican heritage with a clever touch, go-for-broke attitude and throwback serve-and-volley game, beat Nadal 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Centre Court on Thursday in by far the biggest surprise of the tournament so far.
Brown, a 30-year-old journeyman who had never beaten a seeded player at a Grand Slam, kept Nadal off balance all match with a mix of drop-volleys, big serves, reflex shots and quick-fire backhand serve returns.
It’s the first time Nadal has lost to a qualifier at a Grand Slam, and the fourth year in a row he has lost in the early rounds at Wimbledon to a player ranked 100th or lower.
Nadal won Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010 but has barely been a factor since losing in the 2011 final. He fell in the second round to No. 100 Lukas Rosol in 2012, first round to 135th-ranked Steve Darcis in 2013 and fourth round to No. 144 Nick Kyrgios last year.
Brown, who was born in Germany to a Jamaican father and German mother, moved to Jamaica at the age of 12. He returned to Europe in 2004 and traveled around the continent in a camper to play tournaments. Brown switched nationality from Jamaican to German in 2010.
Brown had played Nadal once before, beating the Spaniard 6-4, 6-1 on grass in Halle, Germany, last year. But few people gave him much of a chance against the 14-time Grand Slam winner on the greatest stage in tennis.
“I’m playing the first time on Centre Court,” Brown said afterward. “It was awkward actually, I thought I was going to freak out a little bit.”
Brown, who had to get through three rounds of qualifying just to make into the main draw, gave Nadal fits with his serve-and-volley tactics — something rarely seen any more.
“With my game, it makes him not play his game at all,” Brown said. “He gets two balls, or he doesn’t get any balls, and he doesn’t get in a rhythm.”
Brown used serve-and-volley on 99 of 114 service points, winning 71 of those. He also won 49 of 85 points at the net and finished with 58 total winners, compared to 42 for Nadal.
“Being on grass, being with him on the court and having won the last match, it made me feel more comfortable,” Brown said. “It was easy for me to play my game against someone like him, because I had nothing to lose.”