Rafael Nadal admits Australian Open exit was tough to take

A glum-looking Rafael Nadal after he was forced to retire from his quarterfinal against Marin Cilic. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Rafael Nadal admits Australian Open exit was tough to take

LONDON: Rafal Nadal revealed being forced to retire from his Australian Open last-eight clash against Marin Cilic was hard to accept.
The world No. 1 walked off the court while trailing 2-0 in the fifth and final set to gift the Croatian a spot in the semifinals. Nadal had won the first set 6-3 before Cilic came back to take the second by the same scoreline. It was during the third set, which he won in a tiebreak, that Nadal said he felt a pain in his thigh. Cilic won the fourth set 6-2 before the Spaniard called it quits.
And the 16-time Grand Slam champion found the result tough to take.
“Tough moments — not (for) the first time here,” Nadal said.
“I’m a positive person, but today is an opportunity lost to be in a semifinal for a Grand Slam and fight for an important title for me.
“It’s really tough to accept.”
The 31-year-old said he would have medical scans on Wednesday to determine the exact location and extent of the injury, which he could only describe as being high on his right leg but not in the hip.
“Unbelievable performance from both of us and really unfortunate for Rafa,” Cilic said.
“He’s such an unbelievable competitor. He always gives his best, it’s very unfortunate for him to finish this way.”
Cilic now faces surprise package Kyle Edmund in the last four, and of his next opponent he said: “He had an amazing run and a great match today. I have to keep going with my own game. Kyle is also a big hitter so I have to take things into my own hands and deal with my own court in the best way possible.”


Can Barcelona shine without their star man Lionel Messi?

Updated 23 October 2018
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Can Barcelona shine without their star man Lionel Messi?

  • Barca's first test without their main man is against Inter Milan at home in the Champions League on Wednesday.
  • Catalans will look to Ousmane Dembele, Rafinha and Malcom, to step up in his absence.

BARCELONA: Barcelona’s lowest ebbs are invariably followed by questions about Lionel Messi but the issue of over-reliance may become clearer over the coming weeks.
The sight of Messi on the ground, grasping his right arm, during Barca’s win over Sevilla on Saturday prompted reactions inside the Non Camp normally reserved for the conceding of goals.
Hands behind heads, fingers over mouths, the concern became real shortly after the final whistle when the club confirmed Messi had fractured his radial bone.
His absence leaves Barca vulnerable when they need him most, for a run of fixtures that includes Inter Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday, the Clasico against Real Madrid on Sunday, before a return match against Inter in Italy at the start of next month.
If he takes longer than expected to recover, he could miss tricky games against Real Betis and Atletico Madrid in La Liga too.

Argentine ace Messi was in agony as soon as he hit the turf — he will be out for as many as six matches. 


Barcelona have grown used to accusations of dependence, not least when results have taken a turn for the worse.
When Ernesto Valverde left Messi on the bench for the 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Bilbao last month, the argument was given added weight by him coming on and making the assist for their equalizer.
“This is Barcelona,” Messi said afterwards. “We have a strong team and we have enough not to have to depend on one player.”
The same point was raised last season, when Messi, as a substitute, inspired a late fightback from two goals down against Sevilla and scored in the 89th minute.
He played the entirety of the Champions League collapse against Roma but then the criticism was Barca had failed to find the answer when Messi had not provided it.
There is no team in the world that would not look worse with Messi extracted.

‘CASTING FOR REPLACEMENTS’

As Real Madrid are proving in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, a striker’s goals are difficult to replace but so too is the aura.
“Emotionally we know when Messi is there he gives us more confidence because he is the best in the world,” Pique said on Saturday. “But it does not have to affect us.”
To maintain a resurgence built on wins over Tottenham and Sevilla, as well as a draw away to Valencia, Valverde will have to find the solution.

Can Ousmane Dembele raise his game in the absence of Messi? 


On Monday, Marca listed six options in a “casting for replacements” — Ousmane Dembele, Rafinha, Munir El-Haddadi, Malcom, Carles Alena and Sergi Roberto.
Alena, the 20-year-old midfielder, is an exciting talent, while Malcom, only a year older, scored 12 goals for Bordeaux last season.
But Dembele is the most obvious. Messi’s position on the right of the front three is where he is most comfortable, rather than off the left, where the 21-year-old has often been made to adapt so far.
After a debut season blighted by injuries, Dembele started the first six games of this one, scoring five goals.
But doubts remain about him in big games, where his habit for losing possession can be punished by opponents quick in transition and clinical on the counter-attack.
When Barca went three matches without a win, he was dropped. “He is not yet fully aware of what it means to play at the highest level,” said France coach Didier Deschamps last month. “He still needs to learn,” Valverde said last weekend.
It would be a surprise if Dembele was not at least given the chance at Camp Nou against Inter, who are level on points with Barca in Group B, having also beaten PSV Eindhoven and Tottenham.
Second place might have been the limit of Inter’s ambitions when the draw was made but with Messi out, they might spy an opportunity. “It is a pity,” said Mauro Icardi. “And a big blow for them.”