In The Zone


Lukas Rosol. Lukas Rosol? Oh yeah, right, Lukas Rosol…um, who is he?

If you knew who he was prior to his stunning upset today of 11 time grand slam winner, Rafael Nadal, in the second round of the 2012 Wimbledon championships, then you must be related to him.

I’d never heard of him.

After the first set ended, I called several knowledgeable tennis enthusiasts to ask if they knew of him because he was giving Nadal hell and it didn’t appear to be a fluke.

Three of the four I queried answered “no.” The fourth thought it was a trick question and answered, “The guy trained by Obi-wan Kenobi?”

“What? Are you daft?”

“You know man, the Jedi master dude…Obi-wan Kenobi,” he insisted.

“No, no you idiot. You’re thinking about the movie “Star Wars” and the character Luke Skywalker,” I replied.

“Oh yeah, right, right man. Well who are you talking about?”

“Lukas Rosol, you nut! I asked if you know who…oh just forget it. Go take a nap man. I think you need to sleep something off.”

Lukas Rosol is a professional tennis player from the Czech Republic.The bulk of his experience has come on the challenger circuit. He failed to qualify for Wimbledon in five previous attempts. What’s more, in those failed attempts, he never even won a match.

Then how is it possible that he not only defeated, but man-handled one of the greatest players in tennis history?

I have the answer.

He was in the zone.

What zone? I don’t know exactly, but it’s one in which a tennis player can accomplish the impossible. It’s a zone in which he can swing his racket at the ball with reckless abandon, as hard as he can possibly swing and every ball lands inside the 23.78 meters long, 8.23 meters wide (78′ X 27′) singles boundaries of a tennis court.

Lukas Rosol was in that zone today.

Rafael Nadal must have felt in a zone as well…”The Twilight Zone.” He looked perplexed, dazed and dominated, like a fighter who has taken one to many punches to the head in a lopsided bout. He’s hanging on for dear life while trying to figure out if he is being punched or bludgeoned with a sledge hammer.

Of course I’ve seen Nadal lose before but not like this, not in a complete role reversal, as if he were a qualifier playing against an 11 time slam winner.

And it wasn’t that he played badly, rather it was that the other guy hit the ball so freaking hard and with such deadly accuracy that Nadal never had a chance to do what he has done to so many so often, impose his will.

I had a glimmer of it in the first set, a set which Nadal was lucky to win. But I completely saw it coming by the end of the second set. The look in Rosol’s eyes was of calm intensity. He looked as though he had been waiting for this moment in time for his entire life.

He actually looked prepared for the improbable but apparently inevitable outcome.

It was almost scary.

It was scary for Nadal who was visibly shaken and crestfallen even before the slaughter ended.

The commentators kept suggesting that Rosol would wake up, that the gravity of what he was about to do would get to him, that surely he would begin to get nervous, would falter as the pressure to serve out the match mounted.

But he didn’t. If anything, if even possible, he upped the level of an already stratospheric game to a cosmic plateau that mere earthlings rarely reach.

I dunno. Maybe there is an Obi-wan Kenobi or some equivalent under whom he trained.

But from what I witnessed, the man was in some rarefied place. It was as though he was locked in a hypnotic trance of some kind.

And though in an area of performance he’d never experienced before, implausibly, he discovered a niche reserved on this day, at that time, just for him.

Today, Thursday, June 28, Lukas Rosol was there…

He was in “the zone.”

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13 thoughts on “In The Zone

  1. I totally agree! I loved this match and kept yelling “I love this kid!” at the TV. The intensity on his face said it all: “I’m taking you down today Nadal. Have a safe flight home.” Great post btw!

  2. Actually, being a tennis fan and a Czech native is enough to know Lukas Rosol well 🙂 The guy has been here for some time and I have known for some time he can play very well, if he has a good day. If not, the game is still there, but the ball is flying EVERYWHERE but inside the court.. Fortunately, it was a pretty good day for Lukas yesterday, hope it lasts..

  3. You put it in words so well Martin, I agree with wholeheartedly!!
    I hope that Rosol will continue to remember how he played yesterday and what he is capable of in tight moments…feel privileged to have watched this match :))
    Simge

  4. Rosol’s strategy against Nadal reminds me of the Nadal v Golubev match at 2011 US Open. Golubev played with the same reckless, go for the winner on every shot intensity and was actually up a break in all the sets and held many set points but ultimately crumbled. He was almost “In The Zone” but not quite. He lost in 3 sets but it should have been a five-setter at least.

    • Max. I didn’t see that match but I think it’s clear that players need to take it to the champs instead of playing while in awe of them. Rosol showed that they are beatable. Benneteau came within two points of upsetting Federer by using the exact same approach.
      Thanks for the comment.

    • @ajosin. I agree. Rafa was injured and clearly it was a more serious injury than anyone knew at the time. After all, it took seven long months for him to get back on court. Still, I can’t be sure that anyone would have beaten Rosol on that day, at that time in history. It was the cleanest, hardest, taking-the-ball-earliest display of tennis I’ve ever seen. Every ball he hit was an accurate bomb.

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