London: One year after he was struck down by a knee injury and denied the chance to defend his Wimbledon crown, the sight of Rafael Nadal flat out on Queen`s Club`s centre court on Thursday was a worrying moment.
The Spaniard needed a three-minute injury time-out after losing the second set of his third round match against Denis Istomin, the 24-year-old, face down on the turf and grimacing as an ATP physio massaged his backside.
A packed centre court watched on anxiously but thankfully the French Open champion got back to his feet to complete a 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 victory over the Uzbekistan player.
Afterwards he said he was confident that he would be able to face compatriot Feliciano Lopez for a place in the semi-finals.
"I called the physio to check how my leg was," world number one Nadal told reporters. "I`m still doing some tests and they are going to do more to know how I am.
"I felt something after he handled it," Nadal added, standing up and pointing to his posterior to explain exactly where it hurt. "I have to be sure that`s it`s nothing dangerous. If something happened this week, it`s difficult to be ready (for Wimbledon) in one week.”
Nadal`s visit to London last year was a brief one. He did not play at Queen`s where he was also defending champion and after a warm-up at an exhibition event in the week before Wimbledon he pulled out of the grasscourt grand slam.
Thursday`s weather conditions hardly helped Nadal`s cause. Under grey skies and spits of drizzle, the ball skidded low and fast and he was clearly relieved to survive.
"That was not the best conditions for the body," he said. "It was a big change for me, a big change to play two months on clay then come to grass.”
"Days like this make everything a little more difficult."