Generally, when a top-ranked tennis player "collapses" at a major tournament it means that they've lost unexpectedly to a lower-ranked opponent or squandered an advantage in a match they seemed to have in hand. Neither of those two things happened to Rafael Nadal today at the U.S. Open, but the late afternoon was full of talk about his "collapse."
While speaking to the Spanish-language press after his convincing straight-set triumph over David Nalbandian, Nadal was gripped by a fierce lower-body cramp. His body seized up, his face grimaced, his arms alternately rose to cover his face and he began moaning in pain. The shutters of various cameras filled the silence after confused and concerned reporters stopped asking questions of a player clearly in physical distress.
As is so often the case these days, news of the incident spread from the press conference room in Flushing to the wider world via Twitter. USA Today tennis reporter Doug Robson was among the first to share what was transpiring.
Nadal just had an incident in the press room. Put head on hands, slid down in chair, now under the interview desk. #uso11
Before it was clear that Nadal was merely struck by cramp, however painful, there were a few tense moments. BBC Radio commentator David Law relayed that Nadal slid from his chair onto the floor behind the interview table and had to attended to by his staff. Reporters were cleared from the room and the lights were dim as he was treated.
Rafael Nadal appears to be on his back in the interview room having his leg stretched. Cramp? This is a first, surely.
Asked to address the cramping after he'd recovered, Nadal sounded a "little short-tempered" to Kevin Mitchell of The Guardian. Of course, Richard Evans of FoxSports reported that Nadal had a grin on his face when he eventually popped up behind the table. For all the worry and speculation about what was happening, Nadal's version of events was rather succinct.
"I just have cramping in my leg, that's all," Nadal told reporters.