Australian Open Rafael Nadal Forced To Dig Deep In Five Set Epic Against Tim Smyczek
Rafael Nadal fought off sickness and a feisty American qualifier to reach the third round of the Australian Open after a five-set epic.
World No.112 Tim Smyczek was on the brink of a huge upset when he took a two sets to one lead over the ailing world No.3.
The Spaniard, who had on-court treatment for stomach cramps and dizziness in the third set, had never lost to a qualifier in his previous 39 Grand Slams.
But Nadal gritted his teeth on a sweltering Melbourne night to win through 6-2 3-6 6-7 6-3 7-5 in four hours and 12 minutes.
TV reported Nadal went off court to vomit after winning the first set.
Nadal said: "It was a very tough night. I don”t know what was going on. I felt irritation after the first set. I started to have some cramps all over the body in different places. It shows I am not in perfect shape. It is not normal to happen after on hour. I just had to accept the situation and fight for every point. For me it is a tough period of time after not playing a lot of matches. They were humid conditions."
GettyStruggles: Nadal made use of an ice towel and had to see the trainer as he struggled
The Spaniard also thanked Smyczek for an act of sportsmanship in the final game when he allowed Nadal to re-take a first serve after a fan shouted out from the crowd.
"First of all I want to congratulate Tim," the world No.3 added.
"He was a real gentleman what he did in the last game. Not many people would do that at 6-5 in the fifth set after four hours. I think he played a great match."
The Spaniard suffered from a wrist injury and had an appendectomy last season and played only seven matches following his Wimbledon defeat to world No.144 Nick Kyrgios.
Nadal, who won here in 2009, had talked down his chances of becoming the first man in the Open era to win each of the four Grand Slams twice.
But he looked fine in racing to his first-round victory over Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets. And no-one could have predicted the topsy-turvy nature of this clash after Nadal won the opening set in only 31 minutes.
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The 2009 champion, who suffered a back injury while losing the final to Stan Wawrinka last year, first showed all was not right when double-faulting to give away a break of service at the start of the second set.
He did this three times during the match. And clearly struggling, he called on the doctor at 2-1 down in the third set and at one point appeared about to vomit over the advertising hoardings. He looked as off-colour as his fluorescent pink shirt and bright yellow bandana. Nadal also appeared to be suffering from cramp in his hands.
Seeing his chance, the 27-year-old journeyman from Wisconsin unloaded a series of winners in the match of his life.
Nadal has lost to low-ranked players in the last three Wimbledons after suffering first round defeat to world No.135 Steve Darcis in 2013 and to No.100 Lukas Rosol in the second round in 2012. And the Rod Laver Arena sounded like Centre Court in the old days with cries of: “C”mon Tim” ringing out.
After losing the third set, Nadal looked in danger of pulling out like he did against Andy Murray with a knee injury here in 2010.
But fuelled by gels and tablets, the Spaniard showed the fight of a champion to win the next two sets before dropping to his knees in a combination of pain and celebration. He next faces Dudi Sela of Israel.
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