World No1 Sir Andy Murray received a major boost last night as 15-time grand slam champion Rafael Nadal crashed out of Wimbledon in a thrilling final twist of the tournament’s Manic Monday.
Fourth seed Nadal, who was bidding to win back-to-back French Open and Wimbledon titles for a joint record third time, succumbed 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13 in an epic five-set showdown with 16th seed Gilles Muller of Luxembourg.
Veteran Muller, 34, reached his first gram slam quarter-final since the 2008 US Open following a gruelling clash which lasted close to five hours and will now play seventh seed Marin Cilic for a place in the last four.
World No2 Nadal had looked in imperious form in the previous rounds and was on course to meet defending champion and top seed Murray, who earlier dispatched Benoit Paire of France 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 6-4, in the semi-finals.
“I lost in the fourth round; that’s not the result I was expecting,” said Nadal. “It’s true that I played some good matches. I play better than other years, true. I lost an opportunity.”
Murray, meanwhile, waded into the debate over unequal scheduling at the All England Club after beating Paire in straight sets and setting up a quarter-final tussle with 24th seed Sam Querrey of America on Wednesday.
Fellow world No1 and two-time grand slam champion Angelique Kerber had already expressed her surprise at playing her last-16 match against Garbine Muguruza of Spain, which she lost 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, on Court No2.
In the opening week of the championships, 14 matches on Centre Court have featured the men’s singles draw, while eight have been from the women’s. Murray backed a more balanced distribution of matches on the SW19 show courts.
“I don’t think anyone’s suggesting it is fair. I’m not suggesting that it is.,” said Murray, whose victory ensured a British representative in both the men and women’s quarter-final draw at Wimbledon for the first time in 44 years.
“Ideally you would have two men’s and two women’s on Centre, potentially starting the matches a bit earlier would allow for that. Need to maybe find a way of allowing for an equal split of the men’s and women’s matches across the tournament rather than just looking at one day.
“If there’s better matches on the women’s side than the men’s side, you can flip it. If there’s better matches on the men’s side, then that has to go first. So maybe starting the matches a little bit earlier in the day, and splitting them between the men and women. It’s not the hardest thing to do.”
Manic Monday was supposed to determine all last-16 ties, although the protracted battle between Nadal and Muller delayed second seed Novak Djokovic’s showdown with Adrian Mannarino until Tuesday. Elsewhere, Roger Federer beat Grigor Dimitrov in straights, while Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych also progressed.