January 21, 2015
Rafa Nadal and Maria Sharapova engineered epic escapes at the Australian Open, while Roger Federer almost lost his cool over a possible bee sting!
You couldn’t make it up. And who would have imagined that Nadal could be offered a third serve by his sporting opponent while serving for the match after over four hours?
But nothing surprises us in Melbourne any more. And we’re barely half way through the first week!
Nadal looked as though he might have to retire when he started to feel dizzy and suffer from stomach cramps. Then he went 2-1 down in sets to world 112 Tim Smyczek. All over for the Spaniard? Not a chance.
Rafa dug deep, battled back and broke his American friend in the eleventh game of the fifth. At 30-0 on his serve and just two points from taking the match, Nadal was distracted by a member of the crowd, who yelled just before he struck his serve. Unsurprisingly, Rafa’s subsequent effort was wayward.
“First serve!” shouted Smyczek, just when others might have taken advantage of the lifeline. That sportsmanship seemed to stand him in good stead as he saved three match points. But Rafa set up a fourth with an extraordinary backhand pass and made no mistake this time.
Afterwards Nadal said: “It was very tough for me tonight. Congratulations to Tim, he is a real gentleman, not a lot of people would do what he did in the last game at 6-5 in the fifth after four hours.
“As for me, I’ve been through a long period without much competition but I don’t know what was going on, I felt cramps around my body in different places and that tells you I’m not in perfect shape, it’s not natural after only an hour and a half. But if I keep fighting I’ll have a chance to play at the right level.”
Rafa had emerged the winner by 6-2, 3-6, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5. Incredible stuff.
Maria Sharapova was in even bigger trouble. She had to save two match points before she overcame world 150 and fellow Russian Alexandra Panova. Maria’s trusty forehand saved her both times but even that didn’t tell the full story of her desperate predicament.
Panova had two points to go 5-1 ahead in the final set but blew her big chance. Sharapova won six of the last seven games. But even by her dramatic standards, this 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 victory was cutting it a bit fine.
Cool, unflappable Federer. Not this time! Roger got in a tizzy about a busy bee. Federer went a set down to Simone Bolelli and things were going from bad to worse. He was completely shaken by a sudden pain in his hand – then became annoyed when a television cameramen got too near to the treatment he was receiving. “Do you need to be so close?” Federer snapped.
You could understand his turmoil. It’s one thing to deal with an injury you understand. It’s a little more alarming when you just don’t get what has happened to you.
Roger explained later: “I was looking at it and it felt like a bee sting. I thought: ‘This can’t be possible! I’ve never had this pain before!'” But later Roger offered a more mundane explanation. “I don’t know if it’s a blister.”
Just as well his wife Mirka was the one who had to deal with the pain of childbirth…four times! Still, Roger is undoubtedly the better tennis player, even if some are now suggesting that his pain threshold is slightly suspect.
And Federer showed his tennis class to overcome Bolelli 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
Meanwhile Andy Murray beat Marinko Matosevic 6-1, 6-3, 6-2. Was he stung by the local wildlife? No. Was he offered three serves by his opponent? No. It was just an ordinary tennis match. Something of a rarity in this Australian Open, already rich in entertainment!