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Record final has banished mental demons: Nadal

Last updated on: January 30, 2012 10:17 IST

Record final has banished mental demons: Nadal

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Rafa Nadal soothed his disappointment at yet another loss to Novak Djokovic in the longest ever Grand Slam final by declaring he was at least free of the mental chokehold the Serb had placed him under throughout last year.

The Spaniard threw everything at world number one Djokovic in the Australian Open final but still came up agonisingly short to lose 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5 in the early hours of Monday at Rod Laver Arena.

With a break in hand and two points from taking a 5-2 lead in the fifth set, Nadal missed an easy backhand down the line with the court wide open and an exhausted Djokovic rose from the abyss.

Having appeared on the verge of collapse, the 24-year-old Serb broke back and went on to complete an astonishing victory and condemn Nadal to his third successive Grand Slam final loss to Djokovic.

It was also Nadal's seventh successive loss to the Serb, all in finals.


Image: Rafa Nadal
Photographs: Getty Images

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'It was the toughest match I ever played'

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Nadal apologised at his post-match news conference before ripping open a sachet of energy formula with his teeth and sucking it dry before taking questions.

"Fine," he quipped after being asked how he felt following the five-hour 53-minute match. "No, I'm tired, sure. Physically it was the toughest match I ever played ... I am tired."

While Nadal rued his missed chances, he also chose to look on the bright side. "(I had) very real chances to have the title and to win against a player who I lost six times last year," he said.

"But I didn't. I never put him in this situation during 2011, all of 2011, so that's another positive thing for me.

"I didn't have mental problems today against him. I had in 2011 all these mental problems. Today I didn't have (any).

"So that's another positive thing. (I) probably never say that many positive things after I lose," he added.


Image: Rafa Nadal
Photographs: Getty Images
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'Enjoy suffering'

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Defending champion Djokovic's rousing victory followed a gruelling five-set semi-final against Andy Murray, but Nadal said he was not surprised to see the Serb's iron-man heroics and rated his return of serve as "the best in history".

Having lost a match that could stand in the record books for many years, Nadal, who suffered a knee twinge on the eve of his first-round match, consoled himself with the fact that "20 hours" before the tournament he did not know if he would even be competing.

Even the suffering in the final slog was enjoyment, he said. "But that's nice (to) be there fighting, trying to go to the limit, bring your body to the limit of its chances," he said.

"Something I really enjoyed, and I (have) always said it's good (to) suffer.

"So when you are fit, when you are with passion for the game, when you are ready to compete, you are able to suffer and enjoy suffering.

"I don't know if I express it very well, but it's something that maybe you understand ... I suffered during the match, but I enjoyed all the troubles that I had during all the match."


Image: Novak Djokovic
Photographs: Getty Images

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