Rafael Nadal news: Emotional Spaniard admits he feared he would never return

Rafael Nadal

An emotional Rafael Nadal struggled to hold back the tears as he reflected on his stunning four-set win against Karen Khachanov to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Nadal went into the match boasting a 7-0 record against Russian Khachanov and having lost just one set, but this match featured a titanic third set.

The Spaniard, who has looked sharp despite his lengthy absence with a foot problem last season, eased through the first two sets under the lights on Rod Laver Arena but Khachanov threatened to turn the match on its head when he took the third.

However, Nadal moved ahead again early in the fourth, celebrating exuberantly when he broke serve, and went on to claim a 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1 victory.

Then, in an interview with Eurosport, Nadal revealed the agonies he has gone through to get back on court from a foot injury that he feared would end his career last year.

When asked by Eurosport presenter Alize Lim whether he had doubts about whether he would ever return, Nadal replied: “Every single day. That’s true.

“For a lot of months sometimes I went on court and was not able to practice more than 20 minutes, on other days for 45. And then sometimes I was able to practice for two hours.

“It’s been very difficult to predict every single day and I was working with a doctor to try and find a solution. I tried different things but it was tough.

“Even if I went through that process a couple of times in my career, I always say the same: the injuries are much easier to accept when you know you have a calendar (for recovery).

“If you twist your ankle or break your wrist, as I did a couple of times in my career, then you know it’ll be three months. So you have an agenda and every week you do a different thing.

“But with the foot injury, honestly it’s much tougher because you go every day to the gym, on the court, and without an improvement.

“And that is mentally much tougher. I’m very satisfied the way that I approach it.

“I hold the passion, the work and the spirit and that’s probably why I’m here. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future but I’m enjoying every single day.”

Nadal appeared to be back to his brilliant best in a compelling contest against a spirited Khachanov, with the Spaniard now looking like a strong contender to win the title in Melbourne for the first time since 2009.

The sixth seed was very happy with his performance as he added: “It’s a very special week for me coming back from where I’m coming. Every single time I’m able to play here is a very special thing.

“Tonight I played against a great player and a good friend on tour. It has been without a doubt my best match since I came back. Nights like today mean everything. It’s a lot of energy in my pocket to keep fighting every single day.”