World No. 1 Rafael Nadal admit to suffering a back injury while warming up several hours ahead of the Australian Open final. The pain was initially tolerable, yet by the time the second set arrived, it had become a significant problem as it limited his movement and serving ability. Refusing to surrender to his pain, Nadal regrouped, accepted anti-inflammatories from the trainer in the second set, and returned to mount a comeback in the third set.
While the injury was apparent to those watching the match, Nadal refused to go into detail regarding the problem, as he mentioned that Wawrinka should be the one to take credit for the historic victory.
“At the beginning of the second was the key moment that I felt it, during a serve in a bad movement, it was very stiff, very bad,” Nadal stated following his four-set loss to Wawrinka. “This is not the moment to talk about that. It is the moment to congratulate Stan. He’s playing unbelievable. He really deserved to win that title. I am very happy for him.”
At a certain point in the second set, when a medical timeout was called for Rafa’s back, a large portion of the crowd showered the Spaniard with boos, assuming that it was a matter of time before he would retire from the contest. Nadal was adamant that this was not the case and that he never had the intention of retiring during the final, but also touched upon the frustration of building towards a moment such as this, and then not being able to perform at your best.
“The last thing that I wanted to do was retire. No, I hate to do that, especially in a final. At the same time, it is tough to see yourself [in that situation]. During the whole year you are working for a moment like this, it arrives and you feel that you are not able to play at your best.”
The match took an interesting turn at the start of the third set, as Nadal jumped at an opportunity to lead 2-0. Capitalizing on Wawrinka’s loss of focus, Rafa broke once again and closed out the set 6-2, giving the crowd hope of a some-what competitive final heading into the fourth frame.
While the 27-year-old fought his absolute best on Rod Laver Arena, he believed that it would have been “impossible” for him to defeat Wawrinka on that particular night.
“I tried hard until the end, trying to finish the match as well as I could for the crowd, for the opponent, for myself. I tried everything until the last moment, but it was impossible to win this way. My opponent was too good. I am proud about my attitude today on court. When somebody’s giving everything every day on court, nobody can say anything. I go home with the [knowledge] that I did as much as I could.”
It is a tough loss to swallow, yet it will not deter the Spaniard from creating more career moments for himself.
“I’m obviously disappointed and very sad about what happened. But that’s life, that’s sport. I really had a lot of great moments in my career. This is a tough one. I just accept it and try to keep working hard for what’s coming.” he added.
The 13-time Grand Slam champion has not had the best of luck in Melbourne. He was forced to retire in the 2010 quarter-final to Andy Murray, suffered an injury against Ferrer in 2011, lost a near-six hour final to Djokovic in 2012 and was sidelined from the tournament in 2013 to recover from a knee injury. Once again, injury has once again robbed him of another chance to win his second Australian Open title.
“It’s true that I was not very lucky. It’s a tournament that I really had some troubles physically in my career and is something that is painful for me. But that’s part of life. That’s part of sport.
It is not the end of the world. It’s just another tough moment.”