The agonknee of defeat

Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

In a highly anticipated match-up that felt more like a slam semi than a quarterfinal, Rafa took on #4 Andy Murray today in Melbourne. They came out swinging and playing high-quality no-holds barred tennis. (Was that enough clichés in one sentence?) The match was tight, but Murray was out-playing Rafa who was having trouble keeping his shots in the court. And then…the knee. Rafa hurt his right knee at the end of the second set and then aggravated it further in the third. He tried to keep going, but… Rafa’s Australian Open comes to an end with just as many, if not more, questions about the state of his game and his health.


Nadal Murray
Statistics on Serve
Aces 1 13
Double Faults 1 1
1st Serve % 67% 59%
1st Serve Points Won 30/48 (63%) 44/57 (77%)
2nd Serve Points Won 10/24 (42%) 18/40 (45%)
Break Points Saved 6/10 (60%) 10/12 (83%)
Statistics on Return
Return Points Won 35/98 (36%) 32/73 (44%)
Break Points Won 2/12 (17%) 4/10 (40%)
Statistics on Points
Total Points Won 75/179 (42%) 94/179 (53%)
Other Stats
Winners 23 38
Unforced errors 26 24
Net Approaches 20/23 (87%) 22/28 (79%)

As it happened blatherings:

AustralianOpen: Umpire warns Rafa and Andy that there will be fireworks at 9pm. Who’s hoping for some fireworks sooner than that?

Andy to serve to get us started. Rafa into the net on the first point. He drops, Murray gets to it, but Rafa deals with the volley. 0-15. Excellent serve: 15-15. Second serve. Rafa runs around a second serve return, but that puts him into a bit of a bad spot for the next shot as Murray puts it into the other side of the court: 30-15. Rafa runs around again and nets the return: 40-15. Andy holds.

Second serve. Rafa ruling a point well, but nets a ball: 0-15. Murray attempts a cross-court backhand winner, but it’s just wide: 15-15. Second serve. Murray nets another aggressive backhand: 30-15. Excellent point from Murray as he tees off on a short ball for a winner: 30-30. A deep ball from Rafa draws an error from Murray: 40-30. Rafa stops play mid-point to challenge a call – he’s wrong and loses the point: deuce. Second serve. Excellent point! Both players moving each other back and forth until Murray drops and Rafa hits a nice touch volley winner: game point, Rafa.

Beautiful defensive lob winner from Rafa. 0-15. Second serve. Murray nets a backhand: 0-30. Ace: 15-30. Fierce forehand winner from Rafa: 15-40. Excellent serve/volley from Murray saves one. Second serve. Rafa breaks on an amazing point! He’s up 2-1.

FortyDeuceTwits: Andy’s done nothing wrong. Rafa’s done nothing wrong. Rafa’s up a break. That’s about right.

Winner from Murray: 0-15. Second serve. Rafa tries to hit a cross-court backhand winner, but it’s just wide: 0-30. He sends another backhand long and has triple break point against. Murray sends a shot long: 15-40. Second serve. Murray hits a shot way wide: 30-40. Second serve. Murray breaks thanks to a perfectly placed lob. They are back on serve.

Second serve. A deep shot from Rafa draws an error: 0-15. Second serve. Forehand down the line, forehand cross court, forehand down the line – back and forth until Rafa wins the point: 0-30. Fierce forehand from Rafa and Murray sends a shot just long – or does he. He challenges, but it’s long: 0-40. Nice serve and volley from Murray: 15-40. Defensive looping return from Rafa: 30-40. Another good serve/volley: deuce. Second serve. Rafa sends a backhand return just wide – but challenges and the ball is out by a hair. Murray is pissed that Rafa took so long to challenge. Game point Murray. Second serve. Deep ball from Rafa draws an error: deuce. Excellent first serve: AD Murray. Second serve. Murray holds: 2-3.

Rafa tees off on a forehand and it’s just long: 15-15. Cat and mouse point ends with a flat forehand winner down the line from Murray: 15-30. Good wide serve: 30-30. Cross-court slug fest ends with another down the line winner from Murray: 30-40. Second serve. Murray tees off on a second serve return and breaks. He’s up 4-2.

Excellent first serve: 15-0. Murray anticipates a so-so volley from Rafa: 30-0. Rafa tries to step up and smash a winner, but it’s just wide: 40-0. Murray sends a ball long: 40-15. Second serve. Another error from Rafa and Murray takes the game. Rafa smacks a ball to let out some frustration.

Rafa serving to stay in the set. Deep shot from Murray draws an error: 0-15. Return goes just wide: 15-15. And another just long: 30-15. Second serve. Game point, Rafa. Second serve. Murray paints a line: 40-30. Rafa holds with a service winner: 3-5.

The net cord shows Rafa some love: 0-15. Service winner: 15-15.

Rafa’s headband is already on the rise and the match has already driven me to chocolate.

Second serve. Murray sends a ball long: 15-30. Second serve. Amazing point and more net cord love give Rafa two chances to break. Excellent serve out wide saves one. Fault – Murray challenges and loses: second serve. Beautiful backhand down the line winner from Murray and it’s deuce. Ace: set point for Murray. More net cord love for Rafa: deuce. Backhand down the line winner gives Rafa a break point. Second serve. The net cord switches sides: deuce. Rafa nets a slice backhand: set point for Murray. Second serve. Murray sends a ball just long to end a long rally: deuce. Second serve. Body serve handcuffs Rafa: set point #3. Good serve and Rafa pops the return long. First set to Andy Murray: 6-3.

Rafa’s first set stats: 62% 1st serves; 8 UFEs; 6 Winners

Rafa smashes a popped up return: 30-0. Second serve. Another point that sees the players all over the court ends with a winner from Rafa: 40-0. Rafa holds at love.

Murray hits a passing shot long after pulling Rafa into the net with a dropper: 0-15. Second serve. Rafa ends a shot just wide: 0-30. Excellent wide serve: 15-30. Murray into the net, but Rafa can’t pull off the running forehand pass – Murray knocks it off for a winner: 30-30. Service winner: 40-30. Second serve. Murray nets a ball: deuce. Another good wide serve: game point Murray. Second serve. Double fault: deuce. Second serve. Rafa miss-hits a bad second serve: game point. Murray’s smash is called wide, but it’s good – game Murray: 1-1.

Long rally ends with Murray netting a slice from Rafa: 15-0. Murray sends a shot long. Beautiful wide serve: 40-0. Aggressive forehand winner and Rafa holds at love: 2-1.

Rafa pulls Murray into the net with a dropper, but Murray flicks a shot behind Rafa and he can’t handle it: 15-0. Second serve. Deep serve and Rafa nets the return: 30-0. Ace: 40-0. Murray holds at love: 2-2.

Nice serve: 15-0. Deep forehand from Rafa draws an error from Murray: 30-0. Rafa sends a shot just wide: 30-15. Andy sends a shot just wide: 40-15. Rafa holds.

Fireworks going off – will they play through or wait? Looks like they are waiting. Rafa’s wrapped in towels and Murray’s having a snack. Seven minutes into it, both guys sprint off to the locker room.

Okay, back to tennis.

Rafa tees off on a return: 0-15. Ace – Rafa challenges and it’s out. Andy hits a shot just wide: 0-30. Second serve. Murray nets a ball: 0-40. Excellent serve: 15-40. Another error from Andy and Rafa breaks!

Rafa into the net and pops off a winner: 15-0. Second serve. Double fault: 15-15. Good return from Murray: 15-30. Rafa nets a ball and Andy has double break point. Second serve. Rafa sends a ball long and Murray breaks. They are back on serve.

Service winner: 15-0. Make that two: 30-0. Second serve. Rafa tees off on a backhand and it goes just long: 40-0. Boy is not happy. Ace: 4-4.

Second serve. Murray sends a shot just long: 15-0. Chair overrules an out call on a Murray ball – replay the point. Rafa knocks of a winner from the net: 30-0. Second serve. Deep ball from Rafa draws an error from Murray: 40-0. Mid rally, Rafa sends a ball long: 40-15. Murray tees off on a forehand down the line winner: 40-30. Rafa holds for 5-4. Murray to serve to stay in set two.

There’s been a lot of breaks in this match so far, can we have one more now please?

Murray nets a ball: 0-15. Service winner: 15-15. Murray pulls Rafa in and then pushes him back: 30-15. Second serve. Fierce forehands from Rafa: 30-30. Second serve. Deep backhand that skids off the line draws an error from Rafa: 40-30. Excellent serve: 5-5.

Rafa sends a ball long: 0-15. The net cord has definitely switched sides: 0-30. Serve called out, but Rafa challenges and the ball is barely out. Deep backhand draws an error from Murray: 15-30. Second serve. Rafa sends another backhand long: 15-40. Rafa smashes a defensive lob to save one break point: 30-40. Fierce forehand from Rafa: deuce. Rafa falls and Andy has another break point. He just completely lost his footing. Andy tracks down a drop shot, but Rafa hits a stabbing volley for a winner and then we get a lot of lawnmowers: deuce. Murray tees off on a short ball from Rafa and draws an error: break point. Ace! Beautiful serve and volley: game point. Serve called a let and Murray challenges it. It was in. First serve. Lovely wide serve and then a forehand to the other corner: Rafa holds.

Second serve. Down the line forehand winner from Rafa: 0-15. Good serve and deep forehand from Murray: 15-15. Ace: 30-15. Two FIERCE forehands from Rafa! 30-30. Ace: 40-30. Second serve. A long rally ends with Murray netting a ball: deuce. Ace: game point Murray. Murray holds thanks to some clutch serving: we are going to a tiebreak.

Rafa sends a forehand wide: mini-break to Murray. Murray challenges a serve call and it is out. Second serve. The net cord reaches up, grabs Rafa’s ball and tosses it out: 0-2. Rafa sends another shot wide: 0-3. Nice forehand from Rafa: 1-3. Second serve. Aggressive point from Murray and he’s up 4-1. Excellent serve from Murray: 5-1. Another lovely serve: 6-1. Nice wide serve from Rafa: 2-6. Rafa nets a ball and Murray takes the second set.

Screwdrivers are okay at 5am, right? Because of the orange juice? come on, Rafa. Don’t drive me to drink!

Andy serve and volleys for a winner. Rafa gets a reply back to Andy’s feet: 15-15. Stabbing defensive shot from Rafa is a winner! 15-30. Oh, I don’t like the look on Rafa’s face after that stabbing winner. He looks lost. Second serve. Rafa sails a shot long: 30-30. Andy holds.

Rafa nets a ball: 0-15. Forehand winner that Andy can’t get a racket on: 15-15. Rafa calls for a trainer mid-game. Trainer working on Rafa’s right knee. Oh geez. Rafa looks pissed and resigned.

AustralianOpen: It’s 15-15 in 2nd game. Nadal calls for trainer. Says his right knee is hurting and that he can’t push off. Not looking good

TennisReporters: Oh no. Rafa is getting treated for a right knee injury. Nadal says he hurt it in 2nd set and says it’s ‘really worse’ Medical timeout

Second serve. Murray runs Rafa and he nets a ball: 15-30. Murray hits behind Rafa for a winner: 15-40. Second serve. Murray breaks to go up 2-0.

Rafa pulls up when running down a ball: 15-0. Second serve. Fierce backhand winner from Rafa: 15-15. Ace: 30-15. More aggressive play from Rafa: 30-30. Is this going to be like Rotterdam? Rafa, with nothing to lose starts to hit out? (It was Rotterdam, right?) Murray nets a ball: 30-40. Ace: deuce. Murray breaks a string and the ball sails on him: break point, Rafa. He keeps stretching out the knee while Murray gets a new racket. Ace: deuce. Ace. Second serve. Murray holds for 3-0.

Rafa retires.

160 Responses

  1. dk says:

    It was great to see Rafa back but, alas, until he resolves his knee problems and wins against top-10 players, it means not much. Up until last year’s Aussie Open, I used to be amazed at how Rafa fought for every point. I think this is no more.

    • Emma R says:

      I agree he needs to get more wins against the top ten, but I can’t really agree he doesn’t fight like he used to. The commentator said in the first few games, “if Nadal’s expression gets any more intense he will be playing his eyes shut”, and I do think he fought like mad.

      The difference was that he had the sense to quit in the third when he was obviously buggered, rather than carry on with his natural instict to fight every point even though it would be futile, and do yet more damage to the knee. I am really glad he made that decision and think it could be one of the keys to the changes he needs to make in order to achieve more longevity of career.

      • Ch F says:

        I agree, I only hope it doesn’t come at a huge cost in terms of confidence and commitment. Although I’m less worried than after his last injury, because now I know how hard he tried to come back, adjust his game and be competitive, I still worry about what it might do to him. I hope he’ll just become more selective about what to fight for.

    • dk says:

      I agree he still fights for every point but what I meant was that he is not winning as many points, particularly in critical situations, as he used to. I wonder if he will never be able to be at the top of men’s tennis anymore, i.e. will he ever win more majors?

  2. Jan P says:

    Totally agree with Jimmy, and Miri’s comments as well. I’ve been really impressed with his play during the AO. Kohlschreiber (sp?) was a very good opponent and Rafa prevailed. And Karlovich–wow! what a player! And, Murray has been playing phenomenally and, come on, he IS number 4 and a formidable opponent for Rafa. But Rafa was playing really well and adjusting to Murray’s play, too. He also got some bad breaks, but let’s face it, Murray is just playing GREAT now, despite Rafa not being at his TOP game. Good move by Rafa to recognize that he needed to retire and we will all assume he will get back on track while in Barcelona with his doctors. Can’t wait to see him play again, but only IF he is fully recovered. All the best for Rafa!!

  3. Eva says:

    It’s so sad to see him leave the places where he achieved his greatest successes (Paris, Wimbledon, Melbourne) heartbroken.
    Get well soon, Rafa, and come back strong! I have tickets to Monte-Carlo…

  4. Susanna says:

    I think his concentration, focus and determination in both the Karlovic match, the first set with Murray and most of the second were 100%. I also think his confidence apart from the knee (ie his ability to hit his shots)is 95% back. My fear is that, now that he knows the knee problems can come back, even after three months off, it’ll be hard for him to put that out of his mind when he’s playing every time he feels a twinge. That’s what’ll be hard to erase.

    • Ch F says:

      That’s my greatest fear as well. That it might be harder now if he feels it’s a matter of time before it happens again. How will he ever move well again? But then it occurred to me there’s a positive side as well: now he’s been through a serious injury and knows he can recover. He knows he can find his form and play good matches again, in other words that he hasn’t lost his touch, so confidence wise I guess that helps. OK maybe I’m stretching it but I’m trying to be positive ;-)

      • Susanna says:

        Ch F – I think that’s a good way to look at it. You know that Rafa too will try to find the most positive way to look at it.

  5. seemee says:

    was feeling so down after the match. feeling a bit more cheerful after reading all the comments. the problem is he has got so many titles to defend b4 d french open.hope he can win atleast some of them. all he needs is one title win and i feel he will regain his confidence. hope he learns from the mistakes made last year. lets pray for a big break coming his way soon

  6. Peeyush says:

    Well,it is really hard to see nadal like that, look nadal,take rest as long as you can and come back with thrilling sensation and lots of fire beacuse i am having memories how you played at wimbledon in 2008

  7. faeaki7 says:

    The hardest thing is I guess, Rafa has always been sooo great, the only man to consistantly challenge Federer and when it mattered most. He always found that inner colm’ on break points or set points in a match, this is why he always came out on top, he simply played the big points better. He did play well against Murray, more than well and I really enjoyed his match against Karlovic I never expected such a score, I was really impressed. However against Murray it was tough in the quarters and also he didn’t play well enough when it counted re: after he broke Murray he put in a defensive service game in both sets the same scenario, and the tie-breaker was full of errors instead of staying focused and going for it. After seeing Rafa in 2008 so mentally strong, more than ever and playing with confidence like never before its really tough to watch him go down like this, I pray for tennis’s sake that Rafa can get through this, one only had to watch the final today to see how much rafa means to the sport, without him it isn’t the same.

    • dk says:

      That inner clam, fighting for every point like it was the last one, I feel is now gone. He seems to be lacking in both this and winners. I hope this is not the fall of Nadal but is certainly starting to look a lot like it. At 23? Yikes.