An ailing Rafael Nadal dug deep into his vast reservoir of grit to stave off US qualifier Tim Smyczek and stagger into the third round of the Australian Open yesterday, a day of great escapes.
Gushing sweat and stooping woozily between points, the sickly Spaniard dragged his cramping body into a fifth set under the lights of Rod Laver Arena, breaking the 112th-ranked American in the 11th game before closing out a 6-2 3-6 6-7(2) 6-3 7-5 win in four gruelling hours and 12 minutes.
Nadal slumped to his knees on the blue hard court having narrowly averted a repeat of his Melbourne Park jinx.
“It was a very tough night for me [and] . . . a tough period of seven months without competition,” Nadal said.
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