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Rafael Nadal: Five years of agony Down Under

Last updated on: January 27, 2014 10:14 IST

Rafael Nadal: Five years of agony Down Under

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Bikash Mohapatra

For the fifth straight year Melbourne brought agony for Nadal. Bikash Mohapatra summarises the Spaniard's no show Down Under.

To begin on a positive note, the Australian Open helped Rafael Nadal make history.

It is the major that ensured the Spaniard a place in an elite group of just seven players to complete a career Grand Slam.

When Nadal emerged victorious in Melbourne Park in the 2009 final, he not only became the first Spaniard ever to win the Australian Open, but also the fourth ever -- after Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander and Andre Agassi -- to win major titles on three different surfaces that the game is played on.

Nadal’s first major title on hard court -- he went onto capture two US Open titles (2010 and 2013) -- reduced his opponent in the final (Roger Federer) to tears.

However, on Sunday it was the Spaniard who was seen shedding tears.

Nadal was comprehensibly beaten in the Australian Open final, and the World No 1, a fierce competitor on the court, for once couldn’t control his emotions off it.

It’s the fifth straight year that Melbourne brought agony for Nadal. Since that historic title triumph of 2009, the year’s first major has only ensured disappointment for him.

He was a party to history alright, but by being at the receiving end.

For more about Nadal’s agony Down Under read on…

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Image: Rafael Nadal of Spain wipes his face after losing the Australian Open men's final match against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland on Sunday
Photographs: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

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Bikash Mohapatra

2010

Back to win a second straight title, Nadal began on an impressive note, winning his first four matches without breaking into a sweat.

However, his title defence came to a screeching halt in the quarter-finals against Andy Murray.

Down two sets, and 0-3 in the third, a knee injury forced the Spaniard to retire.

The injury kept Nadal out of action for four weeks.


Image: Rafael Nadal of Spain recieves medical attention between games in his quarterfinal match against Andy Murray of Great Britain during 2010 Australian Open
Photographs: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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Bikash Mohapatra

2011

Nadal arrived at Melbourne Park the following year looking to have a shot at history.

Had the Spaniard won that year, he would have held all the four major titles at the same time --having won the French, Wimbledon and US titles in succession in 2010 -- the first in the open era since Rod Laver.

He started well, winning his first four matches with consummate ease. Then tragedy struck, in the quarter-final stage once again.

A torn hamstring, and he lost in straight sets to compatriot David Ferrer, an opponent he usually dominates.

The hamstring injury marred the Spaniard's chance of making the record books.


Image: Rafael Nadal of Spain walks off court after retiring from the 2011 Australian Open quarter-final against compatriot David Ferrer
Photographs: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

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Rafael Nadal: Five years of agony Down Under

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Bikash Mohapatra

2012

Nadal made it to his second final at the Rod Laver Arena in 2012.

And, indeed, he made it to the history books on this occasion. But only as the player who was at the receiving end.

The final that year, featuring him and Novak Djokovic, lasted five hours and 53 minutes, the longest ever match for a major title. It was a new world record, besting the 1988 US Open final when Mats Wilander edged Ivan Lendl after four hours and 54 minutes.

It was the Serb who emerged victorious, securing his seventh straight win over the Spaniard in the process,  having beaten him on six occasions in 2011.


Image: Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts after losing his men's final match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia on January 29, 2012
Photographs: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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2013

Nadal didn’t even make it to Australia that year.

The Spaniard announced his withdrawal from the year’s first Slam with a stomach virus, a fortnight before the start of the tournament.

His pulling out albeit ensured a personal low.

Nadal dropped out of the top four for the first time since his breakthrough year (2005).

That he returned to finish the year ranked number 1 went on to prove what a fierce competitor he is.


Image: Fans show their support for Rafael Nadal during the 2013 Australian Open quarter-final between Jeremy Chardy of France and Andy Murray of Great Britain
Photographs: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

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2014

Again, Nadal was on the cusp of history.

After a stellar season in 2013, the Spaniard returned to Melbourne as the top seed. A title triumph would have made him the first man in the Open era to win all the four major tournaments at least twice.

The path to the final was fairly simple. The task in the decider looked even simpler, at least on paper.

Stanislas Wawrinka, his opponent in the final, had not won a set -- forget winning a match -- in his 12 previous meetings with the Spaniard.

Nadal was the clear favourite.

However, the final score line read: 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, in Wawrinka’s favour.

A back injury put paid to the Spaniard’s hopes, leaving him in tears at the prize distribution ceremony.


Image: Rafael Nadal of Spain looks on after losing his men's final match against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland
Photographs: Matt King/Getty Images

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