There is no greater fighter in men's tennis than Rafael Nadal and the Spaniard added another chapter to his extraordinary story at the Australian Open.
Despite suffering from dizziness, nausea and stomach cramps, Nadal clawed his way out of trouble to beat Tim Smyczek, a qualifier ranked No 112 in the world, after nearly four and a quarter hours.
When a forehand winner sealed his 6-2, 3-6, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5 second-round victory, Nadal sank to his knees, his eyes filling with tears. He said later that he had been very close to quitting.
Nadal blamed the hot and humid conditions for the sweat that drenched his shirt, but admitted that "something more" must have happened to make him feel so ill. He called the doctor on to the court, went for bathroom breaks and regularly doubled up in pain.
Toni Nadal, his uncle and coach, revealed afterwards that the world No 3 had been bitten beneath the eye by a mosquito in the build-up to the match.
"At the end of the first set, my body started to feel very bad, very tired," Nadal said. "I was worrying crazy. Then when I was serving for the third, I almost threw up. It was a terrible feeling. I suffered too much on court for three hours and a half."
Smyczek, a 27-year-old American who has never beaten a top 10 player, had victory in his sights when he won the third set, having broken when Nadal served at 5-4.
Nadal took a second bathroom break at the end of the 81-minute set and looked in despair towards his entourage when he returned.
The Spaniard appeared on the point of vomiting at several moments during the fourth set and opted for a big-hitting strategy in order to save his legs.
By the end he was feeling a little better but still had to hold serve to stay in the match at 4-5 in the fifth set before a break at 5-5 enabled him to serve out for victory.
Roger Federer was also in physical discomfort, though the world No 2's pain did not extend beyond the little finger of his racket hand. It was still enough of a problem, however, for the doctor to come on to the court after Federer had lost the first set to Italy's Simone Bolelli.
"It felt like a bee stung me," Federer said after his 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory.
Maria Sharapova dug herself out of trouble once again to beat her fellow Russian, Alexandra Panova, a qualifier ranked No 150 in the world.
Sharapova went 4-1 down in the final set and saved two match points with thumping forehands at 5-4 before completing a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 victory. (© Indepenent News Service)
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