Playing his first 5 set match in 1.5 years, Rafael Nadal had to fight not only his pesky opponent, Tim Smyczek, but also his body before prevailing 62, 36, 67(2), 63, 75.
Nadal looked well in control of the match at the start, but then in the second began to appear in distress. He left the court at the end of the set and then was visited by trainers and was given a pill in the third as his condition deteriorated.
Nadal looked lifeless at times, hunched over his racquet and on the verge of getting sick. But he fought on only to lose the third set.
Down 2-1 in sets, Nadal finally began to gain ground and eventually closed out the 27-year-old American in a tense fifth set.
Nadal ran his sparkling record to 17-5 after the win.
Here’s what Rafa told the press:
Q. You said after your first-round match you didn’t know a whole lot about Tim. How much did you learn in the last couple days? Were you surprised by the way he played in the end?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I saw him play some videos. I checked some videos. Well, I think he played well, but is true that what he did at the end of the fifth is just amazing. Congratulate. I say on the court, but I want to say here, too. Very few players can do that after four hours something of match, 5-All, Love-30. So just will say thanks to him because he’s a great example what he did today.
Q. What was your reaction? Were you surprised?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, sure. At the end should not be surprising, but is surprise. That’s not positive thing. But is good. Is great. Is very difficult to make it and he did, so just congratulate.
Q. After the third set, what was happening in your mind and body? Did you feel at this moment that you can still turn this around?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no. I felt very tired. I felt, I don’t know. At the end of the first set, I start to feel my body very bad, very tired. I don’t know. I was worrying crazy. Then when I was serving for the third, almost throw up. So was terrible feeling, no? I suffered too much on court for three hours and a half. I was suffering a lot. Too much. You know, was not funny today the way that the match was. Obviously is a very positive thing that finally have the chance to win, but, yeah, I hope to recover myself.
Q. Any explanation of what went wrong?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. I don’t know yet. I just go out. But is true that the weather was different today than the last couple of weeks. Very humid. I am sweating a lot always when it’s humid. But, I don’t know, long time without competition, with tough conditions, but at the end happened something more. Is obvious, no? I practiced a lot. Should not be that tired after 40 minutes. That’s obvious, no? Something happened, and I feel lucky to have the chance to finish the match, and then to find a way to win. So very positive for me. As I say the other day, all the moments I spend on court are important. Is not positive be like this, but in general you know important to win these kind of matches. That’s give me the possibility to play again, and I going to try to make better the next day.
Q. The suffering that you had on the court today, is that one of the toughest wins you’ve ever pulled off?
RAFAEL NADAL: In terms of feeling bad on the court, yes. Probably yes. I was close to not continue because I felt that I was very dizzy. I felt that I can lose little bit the – I don’t know how to say – can fall down. So is true that after the third, fourth, and fifth, I tried to play much more aggressive, without running, no running anymore, and try to go for the winners and play little bit better, play little bit more relax. In terms of physically, at the end of the match I started to felt little bit better.
Q. How did you feel going into the match? Completely normal or tired?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes. I had a great practice today. Probably the practice is better during the last week. So was positive feeling about the ball, about everything. Completely normal.
Q. You’ve had some very grueling matches on this court over the years, some very emotional matches. What is your feeling about this place? Why does it seem to bring out those kind of matches for you?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I spent lot of beautiful moments in this court, but at the same time is one of the court that I really had more tough moments in my career, no? So when you suffer a lot on one court, then you love a lot the court, because I try very hard in all my career to be ready to play well here. I did lot of times, but the same time a lot of times I was in trouble. 2006 I didn’t came; 2007, if I am not wrong, I had a strain against Gonzalez; 2010 I had to retire against Andy; I don’t remember, but 2011 I think — well, I finished the match, but I breaked a little bit, a strain against David Ferrer. And last year the final. 2013 I didn’t came, and then the final of 2014, what happened with my back. So lot of tough moments on this court for me. But, well, I love Australia. I love the crowd. And, seriously, is one of the court that make me play with more emotions.
Q. What do you feel about your ability to dig down and come through? Do you think that is a talent that you have?
RAFAEL NADAL: All during my career is obvious that I was able to find solutions for tough moments. I was able to win matches where I was in trouble. Sure, is an ability, but you know I worked very hard during all my career to resist, to try to be strong mentally. Is obvious that all the practices when I was a kid, all the moments that I suffered, helps.
Q. Given your physical troubles on court today, how do you now prepare for your next game? Anything different?
RAFAEL NADAL: If I going to prepare in something different way?
Q. Yes, given your troubles today.
RAFAEL NADAL: Is difficult. I don’t know. I did the normal things as I do every day to play any match. During all my career I did almost the same. Difficult to change with 28 and a half.
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