This is the picture of Rafa, with a tear in his eye as he held match points and knew he was going forward into his first Australian Open final after his epic semi-final.
And I am simply amazed at what a difference a year brings. Twelve months ago, I got up early on a Sunday to watch Rafa prevail, pulverising Feds in the fifth to take his first hardcourt Slam. At that point, he had the world at his feet, was eons ahead of the others on points, and I can't remember the numbers now, but was one of only an elite few to hold Slams across three surfaces. Throw in the fact that he was Olympic Champion as well, and that was an extraordinary feat.
Rafa said this week that the last time he ever did play really well was at the AO in 2009, and with hindsight, you can't do anything other than agree. I think the single biggest mistake he made last year was to keep to his commitment of playing Rotterdam just one week after the absolute exertions of the AO and the hours of running he did in both the semi and final. In a fatigued state and being pushed to three sets in both his matches with Monfils and Tsonga, he injured himself in the final against Murray, continued to play on one leg ... and there you were. Injured again just weeks after his knees gave up in Paris. And I think that set the stall for the on-coming year.
One by one, we've seen the Slams slip away from him being the current holder, and with his latest setback, chances are he'll slip to either 5 or 6 in the rankings. All in the space of a single year. Amazing.
Whilst its hard at this point to be upbeat, and we fear a little for what the future may bring, from what I saw today - tennis needs Rafael Nadal. The ultimate competitor, the ultimate warrior ... the champion. I wish him a safe and speedy recovery. I shall ever keep the faith, and lets not forget ...
En Rafa confiamos !!!