Wimbledon :The King of Clay passed up a chance to meet the Queen of England.
Rafael Nadal had another priority - winning at Wimbledon.
Queen Elizabeth II visited the All England Club for the first time since 1977 and met a small group of current and former players, including Roger Federer and the Williams sisters. Nadal was invited, but his practice schedule conflicted, and he wanted to be in top form for his second-round match on Thursday.
Hours after the queen departed, Nadal took Centre Court and beat Robin Haase of the Netherlands 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3. British tabloids may take the five-time French Open champion to task, but he defended his decision to put practice ahead of royalty.
"I am playing in Wimbledon. It's not a joke. I love this tournament," Nadal said. "I have a lot of respect for the queen. I have a lot of respect for this tournament. Today is a match day for me, no? So I have my things to do."
Nadal said he thought the queen might attend his match and he could meet her afterward, but he played late in the day, and she stayed only long enough to watch Briton's Andy Murray win.
The queen missed seeing Nadal at his most ferocious in the final two sets. He ripped a point-blank backhand that nearly knocked the racket from Haase's hand. He almost drilled a linesman in the face with an overhead winner. And in the final set he won all 20 of his service points.
"I'm very happy to win in five sets," Nadal said.
"Everybody prefers to win in three, but it's not possible a lot of times, especially on this surface, because all depends on a few points."
The top-ranked Nadal is playing at Wimbledon for the first time since winning the 2008 title. He missed last year's tournament because of knee tendinitis but may be poised for a strong run after another undefeated clay-court season, capped by his latest Roland Garros title.
Haase, a big-serving Dutchman who has been plagued by knee injuries, has fans buzzing about the possibility of an upset. He hit four aces in one game and led after winning two tight sets.
"I was playing well all the time," Nadal said. "I played probably four bad points in two sets, and I lose both sets."
So the Spaniard stepped things up, pounded his groundstrokes into the corners and scampered all over the court. When he hit a lunging lob to break for a 3-1 lead in the final set, he celebrated with a running, spinning leap as he threw his fist - a knockout punch of sorts.
"Mentally I think I was perfect in the fourth and in the fifth sets," Nadal said.