Thompson suffers in Nadal torture chamber
Jordan Thompson has experienced the familiar Rafael Nadal death grip in his Roland Garros torture chamber - and it left the Australian the very picture of exasperation, despair and wonder.
The feeling of helplessness at playing the GOAT of clay in his own Court Philippe Chatrier lair was painfully obvious on Monday as the 13-times champion blew the Sydneysider away 6-2 6-2 6-2 in their first-round clash.
At least, 'Tommo' could raise a smile behind his big moustache afterwards. "Lucky there wasn't a mercy rule," he deadpanned.
"A tough experience but a good one. At least, when I hang up my racquets, I can say I played him on his home court."
Out there, it didn't look a good experience, mind.
The world No.82 tried his heart out - yet this very public flogging looked too much to take, as he chuntered, raged and glared through an experience that appeared for all the world like he was visiting a sadistic dentist.
After fluffing a rare easy volley in the second set, he smashed the ball in exasperation so high it cleared the stadium, earning him a 'ball abuse' code violation and shocking a ball girl nearby who cowered for cover.
When he couldn't retrieve a dazzling half-volley which Nadal somehow miraculously dug out from the baseline, Thompson just leant onto the net and languished there with head hung over the net for what seemed an eternity.
What was he thinking about then? "I don't think I could put it into words you could publish," he sighed.
Early on, distracted by a light behind the court blurring his vision as he tried to return the unreturnable, Thompson moaned to the umpire: "I need all the help I can get ... it's a joke!"
By the third set, he was so frazzled, he chucked his racquet down in the clay.
Yet on the very first point of the match, Thompson had begun with a remarkable running forehand winner that had Nadal groping for thin air and he went on to hold serve.
"I thought I was in trouble going out there, then after that first point - I don't know how I won it - I was thinking, 'S***, that's what I've got to do to win a point!?'
But at least he'd be able to tell his grandkids he was once beating the greatest on his home court - one game to nil. "That was about it," he smiled.
But he could also tell them what happened when the king woke up. About the undimmed ferocity of Nadal's forehand and the shotgun-crack of his 27 winners.
"I remember looking up at my camp and said, 'I've hit one of the biggest forehands I've hit, it came back, I hit a drive volley, it came back even harder and I wasn't even close to the ball!'
"I did everything I could and still wasn't even close to winning that point.
If there was anything wrong with Nadal's left foot, you'd never have guessed it. In his 18th first-round match at Roland Garros, he improved his unreal record to 54 sets won to just three lost.
His 106th win at Roland Garros was a new record for most wins at a single grand slam, beating Roger Federer's 105 at Wimbledon.
"Sometimes you think 'what can I do?'- but I've not been the only one," he shrugged, offering one final glorious understatement: "Playing Rafa in his kingdom is quite tough."
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