Rafael Nadal grabbed victory out of the jaws of defeat yet again in a tennis match, somehow finding the energy and wherewithal to get past Tim Smyczek in the second round of the Australian Open. Having struggled with cramp in his stomach, and pretty much all over his body, from the second set on, Nadal will wonder if he can survive another five-set cracker, if it comes to it, when he takes on Dudi Sela in the third round on Friday.
Nadal looked dead and buried after Smyczek fought back from a set down to win the next two knowing full well he had a stricken Spaniard at the other end of the court, but those fighting qualities just will not go away for the world number three, and somehow he found enough resources to win the fourth and battle, battle and battle on in the fifth to finally clinch the match 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-5.
While the victory was a thing of beauty in itself, all of the talk after the match was about Nadal's fitness again, and if he could go on in this Australian Open and reach the final couple of rounds.
"I felt very tired," said Nadal after the five-set stunner. "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, I almost throw up. So was terrible feeling. I suffered too much on court for three hours and a half. I was suffering a lot. Too much.
"It 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."
Sela will hope that recovery is not at a 100 percent, and the Israeli, who beat Lukas Rosol – the man who famously topped Nadal at Wimbledon – in the second round, will know the longer the match goes the better chance he will have of creating an upset.
Nadal will, obviously, think the other way around, and will look to finish off the match, if possible, as quickly as possible, and if Sela can weather the early Nadal storm, then we might just be in for another big five-setter at this Australian Open.
Having said that, though, Nadal has defied logic too many times in the past; so the only thing that is predictable in this third round Australian Open match is that it will be unpredictable.
Where to Watch Live
Nadal's third round encounter against Sela will be shown live on Sony Six and Sony Six HD and will begin after the first night match of the day between Maria Sharapova and Zarina Diyas, which is scheduled for a 7 pm local time (1.30 pm IST, 8 am GMT, 3 am ET) start. Viewers in India can also catch all the match action live on livsports.in.
Audience across the world can also watch Nadal live on the Australian Open website's live option.