Severe cramping is a fact of professional sports. It’s just not everyday that it happens at a press conference.
Tennis fans see it all the time: matches are put on hold because a player complained of a cramp. A trainer trots out and administers massages, stretching and fluids. In some cases, commentators mutter of gamesmanship, a possible ploy by a struggling player to change the momentum of the game.
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Nothing looked fake about the cramp that hit Rafael Nadal after his third round at the U.S. Open. In front of cameras and amid press questions, he went from sitting upright to slouching halfway down the chair, brows knitted in agony, to lying flat on his back on the floor.
The No. 2 player in the world had just beaten David Nalbandian 7-6, (7-5), 6-1, 7-5, but he was no match for the pain that he said struck the front and back of his right leg. Trainers crowded around the table, and Nadal was up again after a few minutes. When the press conference resumed, he shrugged the cramp off as routine.
“It was just a normal cramp that could have happened anywhere,” he said. “But it happened in the press room. Anywhere else, nobody would have noticed.”