Thursday 23 November 2017

Nadal collapses following straight-sets win at US Open

Simon Briggs

Rafael Nadal collapsed to the floor in the interview room after his hard-fought match against David Nalbandian. He was suffering a large-scale cramp, of the sort that has affected several players this week, although the pain was so acute that he also seemed to be having problems with his breathing.

Only a few seconds earlier Nadal had been joking about his autobiography and pronouncing himself delighted with his form. Then he slumped back in his chair, putting his hand to his face, and slid under the desk. It did not appear to be a case of a particularly tough question – although the interviews had switched to Spanish by this stage.

The unscheduled interruption came fully two hours after Nadal had walked off the court. He was on the floor for a good ten minutes, while a physio stretched out his leg. But eventually he got up and declared himself recovered. "I just have cramping in front and behind," he said. "That's why I was so painful. That's all." And he carried on speaking to the local reporters from Spain.

Earlier in an incident-packed day for the No. 2 seed, Nadal had called the trainer during the match for attention to his foot, but the problem wasn’t as serious as it looked. Rather than a recurrence of the tendon problem that has affected his footwork since Wimbledon, Nadal just had a little blister. “I am lucky,” he said as he left the court.

Nadal’s feet were forced to cover plenty of ground on a stiflingly airless day in New York. Despite a lowly ranking of No. 76, Nalbandian is justly feared by all the top players because he is one of the purest hitters in the game. His groundstrokes are mostly flat, fast and low over the net, whereas Nadal plays with more loop and heavy topspin. And during the early part of the match it was the Argentine who was forcing the pace, jumping into the air to strike his double-handed backhand like a piston.

Nadal cannot have been comfortable. Both players were bathed in sweat from the first few games, and he admitted later that he had changed his shirt five times. But he is used to suffering. His recent autobiography revealed how he was trained to deal with it from an early age by his uncle Toni, an ornery fellow who used to hit balls at him when he wasn’t looking, call him a mummy’s boy and send him home in tears.

Meanwhile, after his five-set marathon against Robin Haase in the second round Andy Murray was grateful for a much more straightforward passage into the last 16.

The 24-year-old Scot beat Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in less than two hours to earn a fourth-round meeting with the American, Donald Young.

Murray had lost only one set in his five previous meetings with Lopez and rarely looked in danger of conceding another one here. Although the Spaniard recovered after a dreadful start to force a competitive second set, he was a beaten man well before the finish.

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