Czech tennis player Lukas Rosol’s recent shock win over world no.2 seed Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon has completed a good month for the country’s sportsmen, with the Czech football team also reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.
26-year-old Rosol, barely known outside of his home country before Thursday’s victory, made headlines across Europe after upsetting the odds to defeat Spanish giant Nadal 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. His win has since been labelled “one of the biggest upsets in Wimbledon and Grand Slam history” after defeating the 11-time Grand Slam winner.
Rosol had been ranked 100th in the world and was the clear underdog going into the match – the man himself admits that one of his main aims was simply to avoid losing in straight sets: “I don’t know what to say – I’m not just surprised but it’s like a miracle. I never expected something like this. There are so many emotions – I don’t know what to say. [Nadal] is a superstar and I’m very sorry for him. I played unbelievably today. I hope I can play another match like this. I’m very happy for my support. Before the match I was thinking to play three good sets so I don’t lose 3-0.”
The Brno-born right-hander’s reaction after winning said it all: it appeared that he realized this was likely to be the peak of a professional career that began in 2004. It was not only the best moment in Rosol’s career, but also one of the highlights in both Czech tennis and Wimbledon history.
Nadal – hardly a man used to losing – had previously reached the third round of every Grand Slam tournament since 2005, but showed admirable sportsmanship and maturity to graciously accept defeat and proceed to sign autographs when many players would have stormed off the court. Indeed, the Spaniard was able to put the loss into perspective, saying I’m very, very disappointed [but] it’s not a tragedy, it’s only a tennis match.”
Unfortunately, Rosol’s heroics ended in the next round, with a defeat to Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber (a former world no.22) in straight sets. Nevertheless, it has proved to be an unforgettable tournament for the man ranked as the Czech Republic’s third-best tennis player in April 2012.
Earlier in June the Czech national football team had similarly impressed, albeit not quite on the same scale as Rosol, in successfully negotiating from a tricky Euro 2012 group that also included co-hosts Poland and a fancied Russian team. A 4-1 defeat to Russia, who boasted quality players such as Andriy Arshavin and Alan Dzagoev in their ranks, led to Michal Bilek’s men being written off by many pundits.
However, back-to-back victories over Greece and Poland propelled the Czechs to the top of Group A, booking a quarter-final clash with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal. The heavy loss to Russia in their first group game meant that the Czech Republic became the first team to win a group with a negative goal difference.
As with Rosol’s third-round tie, the Czechs’ quarter-final proved to be one step too far, although it still took a late winner from Ronaldo to send Portugal to the quarter-finals. Losing 1-0 to a Portugal team ranked 17 places above them – that would only lose to Spain in the semi-finals on penalties – is nothing to be ashamed of.
The Czech Republic’s performances in these two sporting events, in the Euros and Wimbledon the pinnacle of each’s 2012 calendar, means that the country’s 10.5 million population can be proud of a summer of success for Czech sportsmen.