Mendoza: Nadal takes our hearts and ‘Waw’ the title

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By Al S. Mendoza

All Write

Monday, January 27, 2014

STANISLAS Wawrinka took the title, yes, but Rafael Nadal took our hearts.

Not to take away the luster from Wawrinka’s Australian Open victory on Sunday but then, it came at the expense of a bad back.

In another twist or tweak that so often hits Nadal the past several years or so, the Spanish Armada suffered a back injury in the second set after a forehand, quickly grabbing his back after the fact.


At 2-1, Nadal had his back checked at the lockers for seven minutes—unsettling Wawrinka, claiming he was not apprised properly of the medical timeout.

Upon his return, it looked obvious Nadal was in pain, allowing Wawrinka to surge ahead 4-1.

But in a stunning reversal of form, if not fate, Nadal, painkillers perhaps doing wonders for him, zoomed to a 4-1 third-set bubble en route to a 6-3 victory to narrow Wawrinka’s lead to 2-sets-to-1.

Just as the crowd thought their matador was back at the controls, the bull butted in.
Wawrinka, now called “The Stananimal,” gored his way to a 4-2 margin en route to a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory against a hapless, hopeless and helpless Nadal.

It was Hemingway’s “Death in The Afternoon” reprised—Nadal the bullfighter getting balled out.

Seemingly, the Australian Open has become Nadal’s so-called Waterloo.

He missed it in 2006 due to injury, and retired injured during quarterfinal matches against Andy Murray in 2010 and against David Ferrer in 2011.

Then in 2012, a healthy Nadal took Novak Djokovic to one of the longest Slams in history, losing an epic 5-setter to the Serbian in a match short of seven minutes to taking six hours.

Last year, Nadal missed the Australian Open as he took a seven-month break from a knee injury and, yes, back pains. But when he returned, he won the French and US Opens in 2013. And then this, another injury.

But still, as I said, let us not totally deprive Wawrinka of his share of the spotlight. Even as he beat a crippled Nadal, what about his classic five-set, semifinal triumph over Djokovic?

Swiss Wawrinka became the first to beat both Djokovic and Nadal in a tournament.
If only for that, I’d say the animal has arrived.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 28, 2014.


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