Lightning struck twice for Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon as the Spanish 12-times grand slam champion suffered a shock first round defeat by Belgian outsider Steve Darcis on Monday.
A year after losing to Czech Lukas Rosol in the second round, Nadal was outplayed by 135th-ranked Darcis on Court One, losing 7-6(4) 7-6(8) 6-4 in front of a disbelieving crowd.
Fifth seed Nadal, who had never lost in the first round of a grand slam tournament before, served for the second set but Darcis hit back to move two sets in front. With Nadal, bidding for a third Wimbledon title, struggling to find his form and appearing to be struggling physically, Darcis then broke early in the third set and held his nerve to record the biggest win of his career.
The 29-year-old, nick-named Shark, secured victory with a booming ace. "Rafa did not play his best match here, it is hard when it is your first match on grass," Darcis said after stepping off court. "I just wanted to play my own game, coming to the net and not playing far from the baseline."
Darcis was the lowest-ranked player to beat Nadal for seven years, meaning the Spaniard became the first reigning French Open champion to lose in the first round of Wimbledon since Gustavo Kuerten suffered a first-round exit in 1997.
With all the regal splendour of a seven-times champion, Roger Federer began his Wimbledon title defence with almost casual brutality, swatting aside Romania's Victor Hanescu in straight sets. Fulfilling the ceremonial role of striding out to open the action on Centre Court, the 17-times grand slam champion was in no mood for hanging around as he began his bid for a record eighth Wimbledon title with a 6-3 6-2 6-0 romp.
He now has the opportunity to surpass Sampras and William Renshaw as the most decorated men's player on southwest London's most famous lawns.
Maria Sharapova put her bitter public feud with Serena Williams to one side to reach the second round. The 2004 Wimbledon champion was given a stern test by France's Kristina Mladenovic but the Russian third seed eventually triumphed 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 on Centre Court.
Second seed Victoria Azarenka, a semi-finalist in 2011 and 2012, moved into second round, beating Portugal's world number 106 Maria Joao Koehler 6-1, 6-2. The 23-year-old Belarusian, the reigning Australian Open champion, broke down in tears after suffering a worrying fall in the second game of the second set on Court One as her right leg gave way in her service action.