Ailing Nadal survives on day of great escapes

Wed Jan 21, 2015 9:06am EST
 
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - An ailing Rafa Nadal dug deep into his vast reservoir of grit to stave off American qualifier Tim Smyczek and stagger into the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday on a day of great escapes.

Gushing sweat and stooping woozily between points, the sickly Spaniard dragged his cramping body into a fifth set under the lights of Rod Laver Arena, breaking the 112th-ranked American in the 11th game before closing out a 6-2 3-6 6-7(2) 6-3 7-5 win in four grueling hours and 12 minutes.

Nadal slumped to his knees on the blue hard court having narrowly averted a repeat of his Melbourne Park jinx.

"It was a very tough night for me (and) ... a tough period of seven months without competition," Nadal, who was out of action for several months during the latter half of the 2014 through injury and illness, said in a courtside interview.

"Today was a little bit humid conditions and I felt very tired after the first set, through the whole match.

"The fantastic crowd helped a lot so many thanks for that."

For much of the match, there was a hush over the terraces, with many in the crowd no doubt spooked by the memories of Nadal's torture in the final last year when he lost to Stan Wawrinka while carrying a back injury.

Nadal's coach and uncle Toni Nadal revealed his nephew had been bitten below the eye by a mosquito in the run up to the match, adding further intrigue to a day of high drama at Melbourne Park.   Continued...

 
Rafael Nadal (L) of Spain consoles Tim Smyczek of the U.S. after their men's singles second round match at the Australian Open 2015 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 21, 2015. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha