Rafael Nadal showed his hand injury to reporters in the post-match press conference after getting past Kei Nishikori in a hard-fought fourth round Australia Open clash at Rod Laver Arena.
Even though it was a straight sets – 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 7-6 (7-3) – victory, the match was far from straightforward for the Spaniard. His Japanese opponent worked him extremely hard and matched him in most categories except for the few, big points.
On top of having to battle the workaholic Nishikori for a little more than three hours in the hot and humid Aussie city, Nadal also picked up a slight injury in the second set when Nishikori’s deceptive drop shot caught him by surprise. He failed to track the shot down, took a tumble and made it a bit more dramatic to save his feeble knees from any damage. He succeeded in doing so, but it came at a cost of a huge blister that now sprawls uncomfortably on the racquet hand of the leftie from Mallorca.
In Nadal’s own words, his post-blister hand feels “so so” at the moment. Next up for him is the rising Grigor ‘Baby Federer’ Dimitrov – who has the repertoire of ground strokes to make the Spaniard work.
The 22-year-old Bulgarian is the less illustrious boyfriend to Maria Sharapova and has made it to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his young career. What he has in front of him is an obviously top player but one who is not a natural on hard courts, has a lot of miles on him and is now carrying a small, but a potentially very irritating injury.
It’s not a now-or-never situation – because Dimitrov is only starting up – but if he is looking for an occasion to announce himself at the highest stage, this is it.