Despite everything he has achieved in tennis, Rafael Nadal still finds ways to surprise everyone with his brilliance. He did just that at the Australian Open on Wednesday.
The Spaniard, who is chasing a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title at Melbourne Park this fortnight, did not find the going tough against qualifier Yannick Hanfmann in their second-round match.
But you had to feel sorry for the German when, at 2-2 in the opening set with hope still left inside him, he utterly dominated a rally, dictating it from the very start - only to somehow lose it in crushing fashion.
Alcaraz: I’m not afraid to say I’m ready to win a Grand Slam
Moving Nadal around the court expertly, Hanfmann appeared certain to win the point, particularly when he forced his opponent out wide and then slammed a volley down the line into the open court.
Incredibly, Nadal was not even in the frame of the TV camera on most of the replays when the ball dropped with Hanfmann looking pleased with his work.
That was when the Spaniard flew back over and zipped a stunning cross-court winner past the German to claim a point he never looked like winning.
"Well, he must be wondering how on earth he lost that point!" said Annabel Croft, sharing in Hanfmann's disbelief from the Eurosport commentary box.
"He was so in command of it. Look: how on earth can Nadal win the point from that position right there?!
"He was on the defence, facing the wrong direction! Hanfmann did everything right."

'What a way to finish' - Nadal slams winner down line to win first set

With the defending champion Novak Djokovic having been deported in acrimonious fashion before the start of the tournament, Nadal has been left with an improved opportunity to move clear of him and Roger Federer with a 21st Grand Slam singles title.
That said, while Daniil Medvedev attempted to pile the pressure on the Spaniard given all of his experience, Eurosport expert Mats Wilander believes it is actually the Russian who should be regarded as the "heavy favourite".
"I mean, 52% of his serves went unreturned; can you imagine playing a tennis match like that?" Wilander asked in the Eurosport Cube.
"He's added so much as well. He used to be so defensive and passive and waiting. Now he actually takes the ball early at times.
"I think he is the best player in the world now that Novak is not here. He said Rafa, but I think Daniil is the heavy favourite here."

'Rafa is favourite because he has 20 Grand Slams' - Medvedev not feeling pressure

That was after Medvedev had said: "I always say whoever is the highest-ranked is the favourite, so this time I will go with Rafa [Nadal] because he has 20 Grand Slams."
- - -
Stream the 2022 Australian Open live and on-demand on discovery+. A subscription for discovery+ is now £29.99 for the first year for UK users, down from £59.99
‘I'm not forcing him!’ – Djokovic and son Stefan win tournaments on same day
How to watch and stream French Open draw - Who could Djokovic face?