Rafael Nadal suffered a back injury at about the worst time possible.
The Spaniard was getting rolled by Stan Wawrinka in the finals of the Australian Open and was down a set when he appeared to hurt his back. After hitting a forehand in the third game of the second set, Rafa seemed to strain his lower back. Nadal hung on to win the game so that he was only down 2-1 in the second, but the back injury was bad enough for him to leave the court at the side change.
Nadal left the court to receive treatment in the locker room and did not return for about seven minutes. He was actually booed by the fans when he returned from the locker room, likely because the break in action figured to disrupt Wawrinka’s momentum.
Though there may have been questions about the legitimacy of Nadal’s injury, the lefty appeared to be in serious pain and on the verge of tears in his first game after returning from his injury. He lost the next game to fall behind 3-1, and he could hardly hit his serve with any velocity, leading him to double fault multiple times and fall behind 4-1. Nadal continued to receive treatment at the next changeover and remained in pain, but he refused to retire from the match.
— Australian Open (@AustralianOpen) January 26, 2014
It wasn’t until he was down 1-5 that he held serve to win another game, though he lost the second set 6-2. Nadal continued to receive treatment and massages during changeovers, but he just was not the same player. He would not quit, and the announcers speculated that he took some painkillers during his trip to the locker room and was waiting for those to kick in.