Belfast Telegraph

Rafael Nadal magnificent in defeat

Telegraph Sport: where the debate really starts

With Graham Luney

Not that we needed any reminder but Rafael Nadal demonstrated again at the weekend what a superb warrior and sportsman he is.

The mark of a great competitor is his or her ability to accept defeat with grace and even though the 13-time champion watched his Australian Open dream fade in front of an unsympathetic crowd, he chose not to groan about a back complaint that clearly caused him considerable discomfort.

Despite being close to tears after battling through the pain barrier, the Spaniard had no desire to take the spotlight away from his conqueror, Stanislas Wawrinka, at Melbourne Park.

Nadal said afterwards: "That's part of life. That's part of sport. It's not the end of the world. Is just another tough moment.

"The last thing that I wanted to do was retire. No, I hate to do that, especially in a final.

"It's not the moment to talk about that. It's the moment to congratulate Stan. He's playing unbelievable. He really deserved to win that title."

A back injury, caused by a slapped forehand into the net as his body spun round, meant he had to leave the Rod Laver Arena and return to the dressing-room for treatment.

But Nadal, like the ferocious fighter he is, refused to quit and showed remarkable heart to claim the third set before the Swiss eighth seed got back on track.

Wawrinka was magnificent, but so was his unfit opponent.

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