Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts during his men's singles final match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Jan 30, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]
The Spaniard threw everything at world number one Djokovic in the Australian Open final but still came up agonisingly short to lose 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 7-5 in the early hours of Monday at Rod Laver Arena.
With a break in hand and two points from taking a 5-2 lead in the fifth set, Nadal missed an easy backhand down the line with the court wide open and an exhausted Djokovic rose from the abyss.
Having appeared on the verge of collapse, the 24-year-old Serb broke back and went on to complete an astonishing victory and condemn Nadal to his third successive grand slam final loss to Djokovic.
It was also Nadal's seventh successive loss to the Serb, all in finals.
Nadal apologized at his post-match news conference before ripping open a sachet of energy formula with his teeth and sucking it dry before taking questions. "Fine," he quipped after being asked how he felt following the five-hour 53-minute match.
"No, I'm tired, sure. Physically it was the toughest match I ever played ... I am tired."
While Nadal rued his missed chances, he also chose to look on the bright side. "(I had) very real chances to have the title and to win against a player who I lost six times last year," he said.
"But I didn't. I never put him in this situation during 2011, all of 2011, so that's another positive thing for me.
"I didn't have mental problems today against him. I had in 2011 all these mental problems. Today I didn't have (any).
"So that's another positive thing. (I) probably never say that many positive things after I lose."