It was a year after the shocking defeat to Rosol in a heart-breaking five-setter. Last twelve months had seven highly anticipated months desperately waiting for his return, but the latter part of that period has consisted of one of the most spectacular comebacks in tennis history. With participation in nine tournaments and reaching the finals of all nine and seven titles, including the eighth French Open, the comeback king was truly back to the forefront of the tennis world.

Then comes Wimbledon – the place where the heart of millions of his fans broke last year. It was time for redemption and time to again go deep into the prestigious tournament where he had already won two titles while reaching five finals. There comes Monday, June 24th, and time to glue in to the television sets to witness another two week exhibition of sublime tennis. And before even the first day is over, its all down the drain for those millions.

 Heart-breaking does not even begin to describe the disappointment of having to see their sporting hero loose in the first round of a grand slam event. The fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude is what separates Rafa from the other tennis greats; but the resignation with what he let the match go away is definitely a first and hurts the most. Rumors of the knee injury flaring up again makes even the most ardent fans have doubts start to creep in as to how long would his career last. Whether there would be another seven month delay or a semi retirement into only clay tournaments is something only one can speculate.

The mere thought of those options is gut-wrenching but then thats been the kind of ride Rafa has provided his fans all through his career. Whether it was the two month absence after French Open 2009; or the other intermittent injury time outs or the most recent seven month absence; there has been an element of uncertainty surrounding those heavily pounded knees. However, one thing that we can always associate with Rafa is the fighting spirit and despite the disappointment today; Rafa fans can take heart from the past in how the great champion has fought huge odds and come back to win major tournaments and be on the top of the tennis world.

These losses make you cringe and almost make you want to stop following tennis even when there is the tournament of the prestige of Wimbledon; it forces you to find solace in other personal interests as time heals the wounds but all the pain is worth the trouble when the hero rises again and again to provide us wins like the most recent semi-final win over Djokovic.

Despite whatever reason Rafa lost today in the first round, and despite how long it takes for him to come back – one thing is certain – his true fans will always be by his side and provide him the support and motivation to roar back into form. The losses will only fuel his fire to train smarter and again be the world number one. His true fans will stand by him again in such tough times and wish him all the best for speedy recovery and another spectacular comeback. Till then, tennis will not be the same.