Just two weeks after capturing his record eighth French Open title, Rafael Nadal lost in the first round at Wimbledon to 135th ranked Steve Darcis, falling in straight sets--7-6 (4), 7-6 (8), 6-4--to a player who has won just two career ATP titles. This is the first time that Nadal lost in the first round of a Grand Slam. Nadal's setback reemphasizes how difficult it is to win both the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year and how rare it is even for an all-time great to make it through his whole career without suffering a first round loss in a Grand Slam.
Bjorn Borg's "triple double"--winning both the French Open and Wimbledon for
three straight years (1978-80)--is unprecedented. When Borg retired at 26,
he simultaneously held the modern record for most French Open titles
(six) and most Wimbledon titles (five); no other player has ever held both records. Borg never lost in the first round of a Grand Slam and he only once lost in the second round; he made the Finals 16 times in 27 Grand Slam appearances, an astonishing .593 percentage.
Nadal has reached a Grand Slam Final 17 times in 35 appearances (.486). Nadal won the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year in 2008 and 2010, while Roger Federer accomplished this in 2009. Rod Laver is the only other male player to win the "Channel Slam" during the Open Era (post-1968). Laver reached a Grand Slam Final 25 times in 55 appearances (.455), but
he lost several prime years of his Grand Slam career because prior to
the Open Era professionals were not permitted to play in Grand Slam
events; without those restrictions, Laver would have notched several
more Grand Slam wins and Finals appearances. He lost in the first round of a Grand Slam five times. Federer has reached a Grand Slam Final 24 times in 56 appearances (.429). He lost in the first round of a Grand Slam six times. Federer may be the most durable great player in tennis history but he is not as dominant as Borg, Nadal or Laver.
Nadal's first round Wimbledon loss is surprising, whether or not he is completely healthy (last year he lost in the second round at Wimbledon and then had to take seven months off to rest his balky knees), but his Grand Slam career is not seriously diminished by this one blemish.