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Rafael Nadal's 'cheeky' tactic in Australian Open final exposed

As Rafael Nadal began to sweat profusely early in the Australian Open final and called for a towel to clean the court, some speculated it was a tactic to control the pace of the match. Pictures: Getty Images
As Rafael Nadal began to sweat profusely early in the Australian Open final and called for a towel to clean the court, some speculated it was a tactic to control the pace of the match. Pictures: Getty Images

Tennis fans were quick to pick up on a savvy tactic from Rafael Nadal to slow the early momentum of Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final.

Entering the final as an underdog to world No.2 Medvedev, the first three games of the opening set were played at a blistering pace for the 35-year-old Nadal.

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The 20-time grand slam champion is no slouch though, and some fans suspected the Spaniard was using every trick in the book to keep the pace of the game in check.

It was still quite warm and reasonably humid in Melbourne when the match started, but Nadal was perspiring heavily almost from the opening point.

At 2-1 in the first set, Nadal briefly stopped play on his serve to call for an official to wipe up some of the sweat that was dripping onto the court.

Renowned for often using the maximum time allowed in between serves to gather himself and sticking to a rigid pre-serve ritual, it was only natural that some fans believed Nadal was using it as a tactic to gain an extra few moments between points.

Even Channel 9 commentator Sam Groth lent some credence to the theory.

“A little bit of a cheeky way after a couple of physical points to slow it down a little bit there,” he said.

Nadal's opening service game of the match took over six minutes to complete, with tennis writer Ben Rothenberg posting that it seemed like a 'deliberate' setting of pace.

Rafael Nadal feared 'every day' career was over

Nadal has revealed he feared "every single day" during his injury lay-off that he'd never return to tennis - but now the rejuvenated old master is dreaming again.

Savouring his very best tennis since returning from a foot injury to blast into the final of the Australian Open, Nadal couldn't help but reflect again with a smile on an almost miraculous change in fortunes from six weeks ago.

"I played a very good level of tennis - and if you'd have told me that a month and a half ago, I wouldn't have believed it," the rejuvenated 35-year-old said earlier during the Australian Open.

For back in December, Nadal admitted, he was fearing for his very future in the game.

Rafael Nadal feared his career might be over last year as he struggled to recover from a foot injury.. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal feared his career might be over last year as he struggled to recover from a foot injury.. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Asked on Eurosport if he had doubts over whether he'd ever compete again, Nadal smiled: "Every single day.

"For a lot of months, I would try to go on court almost every morning but sometimes I was not able to practise for 20 minutes, sometimes for no more than 45, and sometimes okay.

"It was very difficult to predict every single day and I was working with the doctor to find a solution.

"With the foot injury, it was much tougher, mentally, Every day when there's no improvement, mentally it's much tougher.

"But I'm very satisfied with the way I've approached it - I hold the passion and the spirit and that's probably why I'm still here!"

With AAP

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