Tennis

Nadal cramps up in news conference

Rafael Nadal slides out of his seat during his press conference.
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Richard Evans

Richard Evans has covered tennis since the 1960s, reporting on more than 150 Grand Slams. He is author of 15 books, including the official history of the Davis Cup and the unofficial history of the modern game in "Open Tennis." Follow him on Twitter.

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FLUSHING, NY

After Rafael Nadal easily defeated Argentine friend David Nalbandian 7-6, 6-1, 7-5 in the US Open on Sunday, the defending US Open champion collapsed during a news conference because of leg cramps.

2011 US Open

2011 US Open

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In a bizarre scene, Nadal suddenly sat back and then slid to the floor. His PR man, Benito Perez-Barbadillo, rushed up and began stretching out Nadal's leg. A physiotherapist soon arrived, and after a few minutes Rafa's head popped up from behind the desk.

And he was grinning.

Actually, cramps are no joke because they can be quite painful, but Nadal seemed to recover quickly and, once the media were allowed back in, he stood in front of the desk and said, "I'm OK. Just cramps in my right leg, front and back. It was so painful. It was just bad luck it happened in public. It could have happened anywhere."

In fact, it is a not an uncommon occurance for many players, whether in the locker room or when they get back to their hotel rooms.

Bob Lutz, who played Davis Cup with Stan Smith in the '60s, once cramped so badly all over his body at his Washington DC hotel that he needed four players to stretch him out and work the agonizing pain out of his muscular frame.

Nadal is a similar sort of build and would be prone to the same discomforts. There is no obvious explanation as to why it hit him in the news conference, but he said the 11 a.m. start meant he did not have as much sleep as usual.

"You have to wake up early and I usually go to bed very late," he said with a smile. "I tried yesterday to go early, but it didn't work. I couldn't sleep until late."

Rafael Nadal

SCARY SIGHT

Rafael Nadal gives everyone a scare when he collapses after his US Open match. Watch it at Yardbarker.

Nadal had been very satisfied with his performance against Nalbandian on a steamy afternoon on the Arthur Ashe Court. Nalbandian is a talented performer who has made the semifinal of all four Grand Slams as well as reaching a Wimbledon final very early in his career.

"I am happy about almost everything today," Nadal said. "I think my movements worked pretty well; the forehand worked really well and the backhand, too. He was playing fantastic, in my opinion, at the beginning. But I didn't have any unforced errors and just tried to wait my moment."

Nalbandian certainly started out in fine form, cracking some terrific winners off both flanks, but when he came to serve for the first set, Nadal made an unbelievable forehand pass up the line that typified his entire display. He had to race across court to get there, then use the full power of that massive left arm at full stretch to muscle the ball into Nalbandian's right hand corner. It was the sort of shot that makes an opponent despair. And Nalbandian did.
 

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