x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Rafael Nadal has health scare after win over Nalbandian

World No 2 suffers from cramp in his thigh and collapses in his press conference, but Spaniard will be OK.

Rafael Nadal beat David Nalbandian 7-6, 6-1, 7-5 to reach the fourth round of the US Open.
Rafael Nadal beat David Nalbandian 7-6, 6-1, 7-5 to reach the fourth round of the US Open.

Rafael Nadal, the defending US Open champion, quickly allayed any fears about his health after making headlines in his press conference today for all the wrong reasons.

The Spaniard was talking to the media after his 7-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory over David Nalbandian in the third round last night, during which he had looked in good form.

There did not appear to be anything wrong as he answered questions in English but after he had begun to talk to journalists in Spanish he clearly began to feel pain and called for his physio before sliding off his chair and onto the floor.

Nadal lay on the floor behind the desk of the interview room at Flushing Meadows for several minutes while he was attended to before getting up and walking gingerly out of the door.

The 25-year-old then returned and, smiling, revealed he had been suffering from cramp in the front and back of his right thigh. He then resumed his press conference.

Speaking in Spanish, Nadal said: "It's just bad luck that it happened in public. It was really hot, I ran a lot and you sweat a lot in these conditions."

The dramatic incident took the focus away from Nadal's performance, which was certainly his best of the tournament against an opponent who at times showed why he was once thought of as one of the most dangerous in men's tennis.

Nalbandian, beaten by Lleyton Hewitt in the Wimbledon final in 2002, began very well and broke the Nadal serve in the fifth game when he threw in an untimely double fault.

The Argentinian had the world No 2 on the back foot but serving for the set he faltered, a huge double fault letting the Spaniard back in, and Nadal edged a quality tie-break.

Nalbandian's talent has never been in question but his body has been increasingly frail and, in hot and humid conditions, it seemed unlikely he would be able to match Nadal's energy.

The 29-year-old certainly had a slump in the second set but in the third he came back well and even broke Nadal when he was serving for the match, again a double fault hurting the second seed.

But Nalbandian could not keep the pressure on and he quickly found himself three match points down, with a double fault on the third proving an unfortunate final act.

"I'm very happy with the first and second sets, I think I played a very high level. Even if he was beating me 4-2 and 5-4 on serve, I was very pleased about how I played the first set," Nadal said.

"He was playing fantastic in my opinion at the beginning. I didn't have unforced errors. I played well. I just tried to wait my moment.

"I'm happy about almost everything today. I think my movement worked pretty well, and the forehand worked really well, and the backhand, too. Just when I had to win the match at 5-3 I played a really bad game there."

Assessing Nadal's performance, Nalbandian said: "I think I played a good first set. I had my chances. I couldn't take it. Rafa played good. He didn't make a lot of mistakes, which is normal in his game."

Nadal next faces a repeat of his third-round clash at Wimbledon this year against Luxembourg's Gilles Muller, who saw off Igor Kunitsyn of Russia 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.

Andy Roddick also played down Nadal's drama, saying: "Not to put a dampener on the story, which I know you guys think is really big, but people cramp after matches when you're cold. It's just something that happens.

"It's just unfortunate it happened in front of you all. Every single player in there has had that happen before. Every single one.

"What we do, we run around, run miles and miles and miles and miles on the tennis court in nasty weather. You throw nerves in there, I mean, it happens. As long as it doesn't happen during a match, you're fine.

"I heard about it. They were telling me it was like this whole thing and people were surrounding him. I started laughing. I saw Rafa and he was laughing about it later on."