Tennishead.net has a report on the Wawrinka exhibition.
The theories among the stands covered the full spectrum of possibility. He failed to register a point on Wawrinka’s serve in the first game – there’s no way he’ll be at Wimbledon! He then held serve to 15 – of course he’ll be there! Every flex and grimace, every bludgeoned drive and fluffed drop-shot, every glance to Toni and Benito in the courtside player’s box – everything was a sign.
The crowd were so intent on pseudo-analysing the world No.1 that the match became an afterthought, with only a handful of cat-calls and shouts of support for both Nadal and Wawrinka coming from the stands.
The mood most of been very tense and weird.
After saving set point at 6-5 on the Wawrinka serve with a sublime forehand return down the line, Nadal was two points from the match and very much in the rally at 6-6, when he sliced a backhand lob above Wawrinka and rushed the net. Wawrinka recovered, swivelled and hit a looping cross-court forehand that Nadal left.
The ball landed at the junction of baseline and tramline. Nadal looked round in amazement, his shoulders dropped, and afforded himself a smile.
It was then that we should have known the game was up.
The smile was undoubtedly a flash of relief. The relief of recognising that the world will not stop spinning if he doesn’t play the game. The relief of a man who probably accepted before he stepped on the court on Friday that Wimbledon was beyond him. The relief that soon he can do what it seemed he’d never need to, and rest.
And perhaps relief that he’d known he’d made the right decision and that, while tough, it was one he could live with.