Good For The Sport
Now that's how you respect not only your opponent, but also your sport.
Never just quit unless there is no other question.
It was a little sad to watch an obviously ailing Rafael Nadal's dream of a Rafa-Slam go out the window at the Australian Open in a one-sided loss to his countryman, David Ferrer, but Nadal managed to do it in a way that should be respected.
He played it out until the end, knowing full well for the final two sets that because of the combination of a lingering illness and some kind of leg injury (hamstring?) he had essentially little or no chance to defeat the hustling, tireless Ferrer.
In other words, Nadal didn't do what Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic did last week Down Under in a match against Fernando Verdasco, which was essentially wave the white flag and surrender for the final portion of their match.
Nadal and Ferrer are friends, and it was clear there was no way Nadal was going to rob his friend of the acclaim such a high-profile victory would produce by retiring in the way Justin Henin took away from Amelie Mauresmo's 2006 Aussie Open win by quitting in the final while down 6-1, 2-0 because of "stomach pains."
As well, Nadal had been forced out of the tournament Down Under last year by injury, and there was no way he wanted to have that happen again or become the first No. 1 seed in modern Grand Slam history to retire because of injury partway through a match.
That means that while Nadal's defeat is the headline, anybody who watched the match could tell you that Ferrer not only played outstanding tennis, he was able to battle through the tricky distraction many tennis players feel when competing against an obviously injured opponent.
Canada's Milos Raonic, who lost to Ferrer a round earlier, might justifiably be wondering what might have been after seeing Nadal come up lame. But Ferrer made it happen, heading to the semifinals against Andy Murray.
Nadal indicated before the tournament that this might be his only chance to win all four tennis majors in a row - not in a single year, which is why the Rafa-Slam - and he's probably right. Rod Laver was the last man to win a Grand Slam in tennis, and given the punishing nature of of the modern men's game, it might be a mark that starts to rival Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak as a record that won't be touched, perhaps ever.
Nadal would have like to have gone down swinging on all cylinders, but at least he went down swinging, making sure his opponent got the satisfaction of victory and that his sport got the respect it deserved.