Fighting a back injury, it was a tough night for Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final. The 13-time champion was seeking to become the first player in the Open Era to win two career Grand Slams but his bid fell short to Stanislas Wawrinka who stunned the Spaniard 63 62 36 63.
Nadal, who had won all 11 matches this year struggled with a back injury that really hindered his play after he aggravated in the third game of the second set.
Nadal, who’s had a knee and leg injuries before in Australia, met the press afterward:
Q. Obviously a very difficult occasion for you emotionally. Did your back go when you played that forehand in the first game of the second set when you doubled over?
RAFAEL NADAL: No. The back, since the beginning I felt a little bit, from the warmup. It was a little bit worst in the first set. End of the first set, I start to feel worst.
Then at the beginning of the second was the key moment that I felt, during a serve in a bad movement, is very stiff, very bad.
That’s not the real moment to talk about that. Is the moment to congratulate Stan. He’s playing unbelievable. He really deserve to win that title. I very happy for him. He’s a great, great guy. He’s a good friend of mine. I am really happy for him.
So just congratulate him for everything. He had a great year last year and start the new year winning two titles is just amazing.
Q. Much as it’s not easy to talk about, could you share with us what happened when you went off the court? Presumably to have treatment.
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, what I did?
RAFAEL NADAL: Just try to I don’t know. You can ask the physio, because in that moment I was too worried to think about what happened. The physio tried to relax a little bit the back. When that happen during a match is almost impossible. I tried hard.
Last thing that I wanted to do was retirement. No, I hate to do that, especially in a final. Same time, is tough to see yourself during the whole year you are working for a moment like this, and arrives the moment and you feel that you are not able to play at your best.
So was not an easy situation for me to be on court like this, but I tried hard until the end, trying to finish the match as good as I can for the crowd, for the opponent, for me. So that’s what I did: tried everything until the last moment, but was impossible to win this way. Opponent is too good.
Q. You said you felt it go in the warmup. Can you explain what you were thinking? Did you think it was going to get better throughout the match?
RAFAEL NADAL: I talked about that enough I think. Sorry for the answer, but I talked enough about that. Is not the moment, as I said after the first question. Is the third one after I say that. That is not the moment to talk a lot about the back.
Is the Stan day, not my day. As I say before, I try my best and was not possible for me today. I’m obviously disappointed and very sad about what happened. But that’s life, that’s sport. I really had a lot of great moments in my career. That’s a tough one. Just accept and trying to keep working hard for what’s coming.
Q. How did you feel about the crowd reaction when you came back onto court after the medical timeout?
RAFAEL NADAL: The crowd was great with me in the whole weeks, no?
Q. By the end they were shouting your name, cheering.
RAFAEL NADAL: Sometimes is tough for the crowd to understand. The crowd, only thing wants to do is enjoy great match. They paid ticket to watch the best match possible, and I was not able to offer that to them for moments.
I wanted to try my best until the end. But I can understand very well the reaction. They understand later that I was bad. I was trying all what I can try on the court with that situation. The crowd was great with me during both weeks. Support has been enormous, more than ever. I feel very, very proud about they treat, how the crowd is supporting me here.
You never will heard me talk badly about the crowd here.
Q. Did you sense that he was getting particularly nervous at the stage when you began to play with a bit more rhythm? He began to miss a lot.
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, is normal, no? When you see the opponent playing that way, you get nervous. You are playing for the first title. Is something that is completely normal.
I fighted. I tried to produce that opportunity, but was a lot to win a set. Talking about the set that I won, I saved two 15 40s, one 40 30. Was completely no real the chance that I was having, no?
Is true that you never know what’s going on if you are able to arrive to the 4 All or something like this. But win two more sets with that situation, you know, at the end you are playing against a top player, an opponent that will not miss.
The only way to win for me was mistakes from the opponent because I was serving too slow and too predictable. I was surviving because he was having mistakes on the return.
Q. Right up until tonight’s game, has your campaign over the past two weeks been as good of tennis as you’ve been playing in your career?
RAFAEL NADAL: The best?
RAFAEL NADAL: No. I played a few good matches. I played a great match against Monfils. I played a great match in semifinals against Roger.
I didn’t play my best in Round of 16 and quarterfinals. You know, I played enough well to be in the final and enough well to arrive to the final with the right confidence to think that I will have my chance tonight.
I was happy the way that I arrived to that final. I was playing well in the right moments.
I cannot say nothing wrong about me neither. I am happy. I am proud about my attitude today on court, my attitude in both weeks. When somebody’s giving everything every day on court, nobody can say nothing, no? I cannot say to myself, If you will do something…
No, I try my best every day, every practice, practicing, playing with the right attitude, fighting for every ball the whole weeks. I think during whole my career, no?
I go home with the calm that I did as much as I can.
Q. You’ve had great victories here and won the championship. Last year you were out and in years past there have been physical problems, then again this year. Is that just a part of sport? Is it a coincidence?
RAFAEL NADAL: You know what, is true. Is true that I was not very lucky and this is a tournament that is painful for me. Is a tournament that I love so much. Is a tournament that I feel the conditions are good for me, warm conditions that I like, good crowd. Court, is true that is faster than the previous ones. Normally we play in normal speed conditions that I like to play.
So, yeah, is a tournament that I really had some troubles physically in my career and is something that is painful for me. But that’s part of life. That’s part of sport. Is not the end of the world. Is just another tough moment. Is not the first.
I feel very lucky that I was able to enjoy much more happy moments than tough moments. At the end is a sport of victories. People remember the victories, don’t remember the loses.
For me is a tough one tonight because I felt that I was ready to compete well. But in a few weeks that’s going to pass. I’m going to keep playing, going to keep training hard, Nd I’m going to keep enjoying the world of tennis.
Is great. I feel very lucky to be able to work in something that I really love to do. Not everybody’s able to do that. Nothing wrong. Just bad day, tough day.
But lot of people in the world have lot of very tough days. I am not this kind of person, so I feel very lucky.
Q. Despite your injury, were you impressed at how Stan came out and played, the game plan, serving and volleying?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah. He was playing amazing. Is very tough to stop him when he’s playing that way. So just congratulate him because he’s playing better and better and he’s playing with amazing confidence, hitting every ball very, very hard, moving himself great.
In a court like this one, the court goes quick, the bounces are a little bit lower and quicker than usual, is very difficult when somebody’s hitting every ball very hard and with that confidence to stop him. That’s it.
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