World number one Rafael Nadal progressed to the second round of the Australian Open after his opponent Bernanrd Tomic retired hurt, following a 6-4 opening set loss.
Playing in the extra-ordinarily warm temperature (exceeding 40C) at Melbourne park on Tuesday, both players were dripping in sweat after few exchanges.
Serving at 30-15 in the first game, the Australian started grimacing, looking down at his leg, up at the sky, and over to his box.
Three games in, Tomic left the court for a medical timeout, returning with a roll of strapping on his upper leg.
“It was sad. Unfortunately, I couldn’t compete. It was very difficult for me to say sorry to the crowd,” Tomic explained.
He could not move freely on his return while Nadal, fresh from winning a title in Doha pounced on his opponent, flicked a forehand past Tomic to break serve in the ninth game and served out the set.
Moments later, Tomic rolled over to the net to tell the Marjocan he could no longer continue and waved to the Rod Laver Arena crowd in apology.
“I felt it yesterday. I took a day off after the final in Sydney. I started hitting. I went for one ball and felt pain in my left leg. I thought it was going to be OK. I went for one ball on the backhand and just felt it. I was, ‘Oh, no’. It’s tough playing Rafa with two legs, let alone one,” Tomic continued.
“I just had to go for my shots. I was putting no stress on my leg and it was still hurting when I had to run for any balls. I just felt like, if I continue playing, who knows, something worse can happen, cannot play maybe for a few months. I don’t want to do that. I have to protect myself as much as I can.”
Nadal said: “I felt really sorry for Bernard. I was in that situation a few years ago and I know how tough is to take that decision. But if you feel bad, there is no reason why you have to continue. You put in risk the next tournaments for nothing.
“Because if you are in bad shape, the chances to win a match like this are very few. The rallies were still not too much, my opinion, to say was a very high level. He was serving great. I was serving good.”
Nadal’s next opponent will be another Australian, 17-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Earlier in the day, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray had to endure the soaring temperature to beat Japan’s Go Soeda.
The world number four needed just 87 minutes to secure a place in the second round of the Australian Open, seeing off the 112-ranked Soeda 6-1, 6-1, 6-3.
The Briton next faces France’s Vincent Millot.