Fri | Apr 28, 2017

So close: Nadal, Sharapova survive second round

Published:Thursday | January 22, 2015 | 1:00 AM

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP):

An agitated Roger Federer spat out the question that Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova easily could have asked the players who pushed them to the limits in the second round of the Australian Open.

"Do you have to be that close?" Federer snapped at a TV cameraman hovering nearby as he received medical advice after losing a set yesterday.

For Nadal and Sharapova, the nuisance was coming from the lowly ranked qualifiers across the net.

Nadal was taken to five agonising sets by No. 112-ranked Tim Smyczek, who even did him a sporting favour in the last game of a four-hour, 12-minute night match. Sharapova needed to save two match points before prevailing 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 over fellow Russian Alexandra Panova, ranked No. 150.

After his 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-5 win, Nadal dropped to his knees on the court, clasping his hands in a prayer-like pose.

Smyczek was competing shot for shot, belying his experience of just eight Grand Slam tournaments and no previous wins against a top 10 opponent. He twice led by a set. But Nadal, who at times was doubled over in pain and resting his hands and head on his racket, hung on until he broke Smyczek's serve in the 11th game of the fifth set.

When a spectator screamed out as Nadal tossed the ball for his serve at 30-0 in the last game, Smyczek insisted the Spaniard replay the serve - a gesture later acknowledged with high praise. Nadal won the replayed point, earning triple match point. Smyczek saved those three, but couldn't break after taking the game to deuce.

Federer was troubled by a sore right pinkie finger, an injury he couldn't diagnose or explain, but rallied to beat Simone Bolelli 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to advance to the third round.