The first three days of the 2015 Australia Open have not disappointed with upsets, surprises, and familiar faces progressing through the first two rounds.
What began to look like the biggest upset of the Australian Open turned out to be a five-set thriller as Rafael Nadal beat world number 112, Tim Smyczek.
Nadal overcame several medical concerns to win 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 7-5 in just over four hours.
After winning the first set, it became apparent that something was not quite right with the world number three.
Nadal seemed to be throwing everything he had at Smyczek but his time out of the game proved to be his biggest enemy.
As the American continued to take his chances on break points, Nadal’s shot timing also continued to haunt him.
The world number three made 14 unforced errors and hit only two winners as he lost the second set 6-3.
He called for the trainer not long after with a complaint of stomach cramps as his fans suddenly became aware of his on court troubles.
In true Nadal fashion however, he continued to fight and Australia knew that something big was soon to come from the Spaniard.
Despite Nadal’s physical concerns, Smyczek played outstanding tennis to keep concentration and win the third 7-6 (7-2).
It became obvious that Nadal was not comfortable on court, with his first serves hovering around 180km/h throughout the fourth set.
After each game, Nadal looked groggy, taking extra seconds, bent over, preparing for the coming points, and seemed destined to lose to Smyczek who almost didn’t qualify for the tournament.
If all else failed, Nadal still seemed to have the deadly forehand in his arsenal.
Nadal began to plan for a fifth as he sent two racquets to be stringed, and broke serve to go 4-2 up.
Australia expected nothing less from the forever-fighting Spaniard, as he eventually went on to claim the fourth set, despite his discomfort.
Going into the fifth, Nadal’s unforced errors continued to haunt him with a tally of 44 and counting.
What was more surprising than the simple errors in Nadal’s game, was the lack of winners he had hit by this stage of the match, ranging only in the mid-twenties.
It seemed as though Smyczek began to tire as rallies progressed throughout the fifth but neither player would lie down.
It took until half way through the fifth set for Nadal to look more like his usual self and unleash with his famous forehand.
At 5-5 Nadal finally broke serve and served for the match. However, Smyczek never stopped fighting, saving three match points and eventually going down by advantage.
Smyczek not only established himself as a worthy competitor in men’s tennis, but also as a gentleman of the sport after replaying a point that was called against Nadal at 30-0 in the final game.
This was the match that Nadal needed to help strike some form and find confidence again. However there may be concerns going into the next round for the Spaniard.
In other results, Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios defeated Croatian giant, Ivo Karlovic in four sets to move closer to a show down with Roger Federer.
Fellow Aussie teenager, Thanasi Kokkinakis could not follow Kyrgios into the next round, going down to another Australian, Sam Groth in a five set thriller.
Bernard Tomic also set up an all-Australian third round against Groth after beating German, Philipp Kohlschreiber in four sets.
Written by Michael Lorenzoni