The backstage camera filmed Rafael Nadal as he exited the court and entered the locker room after his 5-set loss to Fabio Fognini. The devastating pain engulfing his face was seen by millions around the world. Head hung low like a loyal dog who knows he has betrayed his owner's trust, Nadal trudged quietly behind the scenes while Fognini prepared to address the crowd and the world on his remarkable win.
I felt truly sorry for Nadal in those moments. One of the legends of the game is enduring a horrible year. Age is not on his side. Younger players are losing the fear factor of facing the Spanish star. The feeling was very much that his career is winding down with increased velocity.
It was indeed the very first time that Nadal has a lost a major match after winning the first two sets. A historic moment for these two players in that respect.
Four hours earlier, Nadal started this 3rd round match well, and indeed took the opening two sets. Fognini looked to be dead and buried; a routine win seemed to be on the cards.
Fognini though, has already beaten Nadal twice this year in best-of-three-set formats, and he came to life in the 3rd set. The Italian began producing a stunning array of shots and decided to play aggressive, forcing Nadal back and splaying him left and right across the court like a chair whose legs have buckled and fallen in all directions under heavy pressure.
|Rafael Nadal seemed to spend large amounts of the match on the stretch|
Fognini levelled the match at 2 sets all and such had been the intensity that both players and the umpire went for a toilet break before the 5th set.
The 5th set was ridiculous to say the least. I have never seen anything like it. From 1-1 to 5-4 there were 7 consecutive breaks of serve. It seemed that both players had a sudden mental block when it came to holding serve. It did however, make for exciting tennis, and the quality from both players remained high.
|Fabio Fognini was fabulous in his 5-set win over Rafael Nadal|
In the end Nadal just couldn't handle how early his opponent was striking the ball. Fognini finally managed to hold serve to take the match and progress to the 4th round. Nadal made a hasty handshake and barely said a word - I thought Fognini's performance deserved a little more than that, despite the bitter disappointment for the Spaniard.