- Kamakshi Tandon
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WIMBLEDON, England -- As Rafael Nadal went down, the hopes of several men at Wimbledon went up. After his stunning loss to little-known Czech Lukas Rosol on Thursday night, the bottom fell out of the men's draw -- quite literally. The No. 2 seed was positioned at the very end of the draw, and his exit has left the fourth quarter wide-open. It also has boosted the chances of all the other title contenders. Who will take advantage? Players ranked high and low have opportunities.
Djokovic and Federer would not have met Nadal until the finals and still face the potential hurdle of having to go through each other to get to that stage. But if either makes it there, he'll be projected as a strong favorite against anyone who comes up from the bottom half of the draw.
And Nadal's exit has immediate ranking implications. It propels Federer past the Spaniard to No. 2 in the rankings, and the Swiss could take over No. 1 if he wins the tournament. And although Djokovic previously had to make the quarterfinals to keep Nadal at bay, now it doesn't matter how he does. The Serb will retain the top spot if anyone other than Federer wins the tournament.
Naturally, Britain's eyes swung immediately to Murray as soon as Nadal went out. Within minutes of the result, there were headlines proclaiming "Murray hopes rise with Nadal defeat."
Given that the Spaniard has ended Murray's campaign for three of the past four years, there's no doubt that his chances of winning a semifinal have improved.
But to get there, Murray must first navigate his very tricky quarter of the draw, and now has the added pressure of knowing Nadal will not be waiting to block his path. Remember Federer's nervy start against Tommy Haas the day after Nadal went out in the 2009 French Open? (He went down two sets before winning in five.) Murray will want to avoid that in his next match against former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis, and then things could get even tougher. His possible lineup to the semifinals is Sam Querrey or Marin Cilic, Juan Martin del Potro and then David Ferrer or Andy Roddick .
Both Querrey and Cilic are big hitters who have been champions at the Queen's warm-up event, and former U.S. Open champ del Potro seems to be figuring out how to make his huge game translate to grass. Roddick's form has yet to be properly tested, but feels he is "probably playing better than the last two years" and "took a sharp turn around a corner last week" by unexpectedly winning a title last week.
Although Tsonga is not quite Nadal, the Frenchman would be a formidable opponent for Murray to get through to reach his first Wimbledon final. He held four match points against Djokovic in the French Open quarterfinals and is much more comfortable on grass.
But he's also nursing a finger injury, which means he's not throwing himself around the way he usually does.
"I did only one dive today and it hurt me a lot, so I will stop the diving," Tsonga quipped after his first-round win over Lleyton Hewitt.
Competing for the right to upset him will be Mardy Fish, who is returning from a heart scare, and David Goffin, the boyish Belgian surprise. Fish survived a five-setter in the second round without any medical problems, but his arm is feeling sore. His fitness level is a bit of an unknown; this is his first tournament in a couple of months. At the same time, he's confident in his attacking game on grass.
"I've always maintained that this is a great surface for me," Fish said. "I've had a good draw here."
It's those in Nadal's section who stand to benefit most directly, starting with the player who would have been Nadal's next opponent, Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Brian Baker's comeback could receive yet another boost. He would have been due to meet Nadal in the fourth round.
And what about Rosol himself? He's not expected to go much further -- but then again, he wasn't expected to win on Thursday, either.
"Sure, if he played the way he played the fifth set, you can win against everybody," said a beaten Nadal. "But I think everybody who follows tennis knows that that's very difficult to do every day."
Rafael Nadal's stunning loss opens the door for many others. So who will take advantage?