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Nadal feels the pain of Wimbledon exit

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Just fifteen days after the triumph of his eighth French Open victory, Rafael Nadal felt the despair of injury and a first round Wimbledon exit. Nadal lost in straight sets to the Belgian Steve Darcis, but it was apparent by the end that Nadal's knee problems had returned to haunt him and he was feeling every step and lunge on the unforgiving Wimbledon surface.

It was the first time Nadal has exited a grand slam tournament in the first round, although he only made it one round further at last year's Wimbledon. The recurrent injury suggested that Nadal will no longer be a consistent challenger to the likes of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, and may have to learn to ration his brilliance.

Afterwards, Nadal was reluctant to talk about the injury, preferring to congratulate his opponent. "Everything that I will say today about my knee is an excuse, and I don't like to put any excuse when I'm losing a match like I lost today," Nadal said. "He deserves not one excuse. I had my chances. I didn't make it. The only thing that I can say today is to congratulate Steve Darcis. He played a fantastic match."

Darcis raised his game, but it is apparent that a Nadal operating at even 80 percent of his capabilities should have prevailed. Seeded five, Nadal was expected to make it through to a likely quarter-final showdown with Roger Federer. Now the path of the defending champion, who won his first round match comfortably, has been eased. Andy Murray may also feel that his route to another Wimbledon final now looks a little less daunting.

Nadal was philosophical: "Two weeks ago I was in a fantastic situation, winning a fantastic tournament. Two weeks later I lost here in the first round. That's the positive and the negative thing about this sport."

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