An exhausted Rafael Nadal said he did not know what went wrong with his body as he battled past a spirited Tim Smyczek in the second round of the Australian Open.
Nadal sought treatment from the tournament doctor early in the third set and looked physically drained as he failed to serve out the set at 5-4.
But after taking a break and talking to his trainer, Nadal came back to win the final two sets and complete a 6-2 3-6 6-7(2) 6-3 7-5 victory that lasted a little more than four hours.
“It was a very tough night for me,” he said in an on-court interview. “It was a little bit humid today. I felt very tired after the first set and through the whole match. 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.
“At the end of the first set, I started to feel my body was very bad, very tired. I was worrying like crazy. Then I was serving for the third and almost threw up. It was a terrible feeling.
“I was suffering a lot. Too much. Obviously it’s a very positive thing that finally I have the chance to win, but I hope to recover myself.”
Nadal has never lost to a qualifier in a grand slam but looked on course to suffer a shock defeat to Smycek, the world number 112, on Rod Laver Arena.
After Nadal called for the doctor, the American Smyczek then raced through the tie-break to take a two sets to one lead, producing a wide variety of winners that left Nadal shaking his head, including several leaping backhands struck with both feet well off the ground.
However, Nadal dug deep to force a decider and raised his game to pile the pressure on Smyczek, who saved break points in the first and seventh games to keep his nose in front.
That pressure finally told as Nadal broke for a 6-5 lead, but there was still time for more drama as a spectator shouted out just as the left-hander was serving at 30-0. The resulting fault looked set to stand, only for Smyczek to tell the umpire to replay the point.
Nadal won it to claim three match points, but was dragged back to deuce before finally getting over the line to complete a gutsy 6-2 3-6 6-7 (2/7) 6-3 7-5 win in four hours and 12 minutes.