Rafael Nadal booked his place in the fourth round of the US Open with his 7-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory over David Nalbandian. It was a more confident sharp performance from the Spanish world number two but the aftermath of the effort saw him cramping in agony in his post match press conference.
The tightly contested first set saw Rafa claw his way back after he was broken and trailing 2-3. Nalbandian was cracking brilliant winners around the court but Nadal was the more consistent of the two and, seemingly more confident than in previous rounds, used his forehand down the line to great effect.
Deflated with the loss of the first set, Nalbandian disappeared in the second set as Rafa grew in confidence and used his heavy forehand to keep Nalbandian on the baseline. Nalbandians flat hard shots were impressive but he started missing with increasing regularity much to his growing frustration.
While Nadal dealt with some blisters on his feet, hunched over almost every time he toweled off (possibly to stretch his hammys) and changed shirts as he suffered his the horribly conditions, Nalbandian took an early break in the third set but was unable to maintain it.
With his family and girlfriend Xisca Perello looking on Rafa surged ahead to a 5-2 lead. When he went to serve for the match he seemed to lose focus and intensity and allowed Nalbandian back into the match.
The two hour 49 minute match was played in only 29 degree weather but as a crowd member I can tell you I drank about 4 liters during the match and was sweating profusely in the humidity and all I was doing was sitting.
The humidity, shirt changes and slightly unusual toweling off led me to wonder if not all was well despite his much improved performance. Sure enough word spread around the tennis site that Nadal had slipped under the table in his post match press conference suffering from cramps.
Super fit Nadal rarely sufferers from cramps (at least within public viewing) but he was clearly crippled with pain as the interviews came to an abrupt halt. After some treatment Nadal finished the press conference standing instead of sitting and said, “It was just cramping in the right leg, in the front and in the back. It was very painful, that’s all.
I will train normally on Monday. It was just a normal cramp that could have happened anywhere, but it happened in the press room. Anywhere else, nobody would have noticed.”
Like Novak Djokovic, Rafa is now back on Body Watch until he proves himself to be physically fine in the next round.
Nadal will face Gilles Muller for a spot in the quarterfinals. Muller pushed Nadal extremely hard in the first two sets of their recent Wimbledon match before falling away in the third. It will be interesting to see how Rafa’s body recovers.