It took just a few points for the first grimace and grab for his groin. It took only three games for Bernard Tomic to leave the court. It took only 41 minutes for Tomic's Australian Open to be over amid the hoots of the local crowd.
Fearing that he would badly damage his groin, Tomic put an end to his first round match with world No.1 Rafael Nadal after a laboured set. It was greeted by boos from an unimpressed crowd.
"I feel sorry because the crowd came and it was difficult for me. I did what's best for me. The crowd have to understand that," Tomic later explained of his predicament with the injury, which he suffered in practice on Monday and which flared almost immediately after the commencement of the first-round match.
Tomic limps to first round exit
A groin injury forces Australian Bernard Tomic to retire during his first round match against world number one Rafael Nadal.PT1M31S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-30tkx 620 349 January 15, 2014
"It was sad. It's unfortunate. You know, this opportunity I had to play against Rafa was huge for me. (I) could have used a lot of it. Unfortunately, I couldn't compete. It was very difficult for me to say sorry to the crowd. I don't think they quite knew what was wrong with me. After, when I told them it was my leg, they sort of started to be on my side, which is good that I heard that in the end from their applause."
After only three games, Tomic shuffled from the court flanked by a doctor, saddled by injury, and wearing the sighs of dismay from an equally exasperated, heat-exhausted local crowd. He returned five minutes later, strapped and bouncing about . Tomic's problem remained two fold: he had a groin unwilling to co-operate and the best player in the world disinclined to offer comfort.
Nadal, a man who could work an unencumbered Tomic around the court, immediately dispatched the young Australian from corner to corner. Two games later, Tomic sat down and tore away the strapping that had only just been wrapped around his upper left thigh. Moments later, the rest of his night was unravelling.
Bernard Tomic speaks to the doctor during his match against Rafael Nadal. Photo: Pat Scala
"I just felt like I was hitting the ball great,'' Tomic said. ''I was serving the ball very good. I was serving, going for my shots. I felt like when he did get me into a few rallies early on, I was like, 'Oh, no'. Straight away I started feeling pain in my leg. After, when he got that break, he was serving for the set and he hit one ball, and I felt it even more. I thought, 'Am I really going to do this, spend a few more hours on court hurting my body?"
Soon after, Nadal had taken the first set and with it the match. Tomic ambled to his chair shaking his head making his intentions clear. He would not go on.
After the special efforts of Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios and the career reprise of Lleyton Hewitt, who has yet to learn matches don't have to go five sets, the crowd had grown accustomed to the idea of the David to Goliath local hope caring little for physical discomfort or the size the task before them. They did not like what they saw from Tomic.
Rafael Nadal was his usual self at Melbourne Park on Tuesday. Photo: Pat Scala
So when Tomic shook his head and conceded defeat, the crowd booed him. Tomic held his hands up in apology and mouthed "sorry" to the crowd. they were quietened, but little mollified.
Nadal, a man who only last year returned to the world No.1 ranking after overcoming injury, sympathised with Tomic's plight. "If you feel bad, there is no reason why you have to continue. You put in risk the next tournaments," he said.