RAFAEL Nadal hailed American qualifier Tim Smyczek’s “amazing” act of sportsmanship after overcoming nausea and dizziness to avoid a shock defeat in the second round of the Australian Open.
Nadal admitted he had thought about pulling out of the match after coming close to being sick on court as he failed to serve out the third set at 5-4. But despite losing that set in a tie-break, the 14-time grand slam winner dug deep to win the next and then eventually break Smyczek’s serve in the decider to lead 6-5.
There was still time for more drama as a spectator shouted out just as the left-hander was serving at 30-0, with the resulting fault looking set to stand until Smyczek told the umpire to replay the point. Nadal eventually secured a gutsy 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 7-5 win in four hours and 12 minutes.
“I want to congratulate Tim because he was a real gentleman what he did in the last game,” said Nadal. “It was amazing. Not a lot of people would do something like this at 6-5 in the fifth. I think he played a great match.”
Nadal won his ninth French Open title last year, but lost in the fourth round of Wimbledon and then spent almost three months on the sidelines with a wrist injury that forced him to miss the US Open.
After returning to action the Spaniard was diagnosed with appendicitis and had an operation at the start of November.
Nadal added: “I don’t know what was going on. I had some cramps around the body in different places so that says I was not in perfect shape. It’s not normal after an hour. Then, when I was serving for the third [set], I almost throw up. It was a terrible feeling. I suffered too much on court for three hours and a half.
“I was close to not continuing because I felt that I was very dizzy. I felt that I can fall down. So it is true that after the third set I tried to play much more aggressive, without running, and try to go for the winners and play a little bit better. Physically, at the end of the match I started to feel a little bit better.”
World No 112 Smyczek said: “I thought I had him for a minute.
“When he was kind of doubled over I could see he was really hurting. I started to believe that I really had a chance and could get it done. But he turned it up to another gear.”
The 27-year-old added: “I mean, he was playing terrible. It just shows the kind of player, the kind of champion he is. ”
Asked about offering to replay the point after the spectator’s interference, Smyczek added: “I thought it was the right thing to do. I don’t know if the guy didn’t know he was tossing the ball or not, but it clearly bothered him.”