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Nadal battles cramps to avoid early exit against Smyczek

Rafael Nadal of Spain consoles Tim Smyczek of the U.S. after their men's singles second round match at the Australian Open 2015 tennis tournament in Melbourne. (Reuters)


Rod Laver Arena continues to be Rafael Nadal's court of conflicting emotions after he narrowly avoided more heartbreak in his latest match at the Australian Open.

The Spanish 14-time Grand Slam champion faced an early exit to American qualifier Tim Smyczek as he battled dizzy spells and stomach cramps over four torturous hours late Wednesday on the Open's famed centre court.

In the end it was a close shave for the world number three as he wrested victory over five sets from the 112-ranked Smyczek to stay alive in a tournament that has provided incredible highs and demoralising lows for him.


Nadal soared to victory over Roger Federer in five sets in the 2009 Australian Open decider, but lost to Novak Djokovic in another five-set final classic three years later.

But it has also been the fitness and health setbacks that have dogged him on Rod Laver Arena, which he has described as some of the toughest times of his fabled career.

He limped out of his last eight clash with Andy Murray during the third set of their 2010 quarter-final with a recurrence of a knee injury.

The following year Nadal was under-powered by a thigh injury and played out to the end in a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 quarter-final loss to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.


Nadal was in tears when a sudden back problem weakened him in last year's final loss to Swiss Stan Wawrinka, and then he suffered again only to edge home over Smyczek in Wednesday's second round.

"I have spent a lot of beautiful moments on this court, but at the same time it's one of the courts that I really had more tough moments in my career," Nadal said.

"So when you suffer a lot on one court, then you love a lot the court, because I try very hard in all my career to be ready to play well here.

"I did a lot of times, but at the same time a lot of times I was in trouble. So a lot of tough moments on this court for me.

"But I love Australia. I love the crowd. And, seriously, it's one of the courts that make me play with more emotions."

Now Nadal must regroup for his third round match against Israeli Dudi Sela on Friday to keep alive for a shot at his second Australian Open and 15th Grand Slam title.

"All during my career I have been able to find solutions for tough moments," he said.

"I was able to win matches where I was in trouble. Sure, it's an ability, but I've worked very hard during all my career to resist, to try to be strong mentally."