Rafael Nadal says the Australian Open final was one of the best losses of his career after he went down fighting in an almost six-hour epic against Novak Djokovic.
In a dramatic finale to the year's first major, Djokovic outlasted Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5 in five hours and 53 minutes, the longest grand slam final in history.
The match started on Sunday evening and finished in the early hours of Monday morning as the world's two best players battled to a standstill in front of a disbelieving crowd.
"Physically it was the toughest match I ever played," Nadal said.
"I think we played a great tennis match. It was I think a very good show in my opinion.
"I enjoyed being part of this event and this match. That's the truth.
"I wanted to win, but I am happy about how I did. I had my chances against the best player in the world today."
Nadal says he is pleased he had been able to match Djokovic physically and mentally, something he had not been able to do in 2011 when the Serb beat him six times in succession.
"I didn't play at a lower level than him for a long time (tonight), so that's a very positive thing for me," he said.
"I am very happy about my mentality tonight."
The Spaniard was also upbeat about his performance throughout the entire tournament, saying it bodes well for a successful 2012.
"[I'm] very happy with my level during both weeks. I realise the whole tournament I did well. I did a lot of very positive things, much more than in 2011 for most of the time," he said.
"I played more aggressive. I played more winners than ever. My serve worked well. The mentality and the passion were there [better than ever].
"So that's very positive aspects on the whole game. So I just lost the final of a grand slam.
"I am not happy to lose the final, yes, but that's one of the losses that I am happy with in my career."
Nadal's defeat in Melbourne was in stark contrast to his classic five-set win over Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2008, when the Spaniard won 9-7 in the fifth set.
"For me it was a little bit more special in 2008," he said with a smile.
"But I really understand that this was a really special match, and probably a match that's going to be in my mind, not because I lost, no, because the way that we played."
After appearing out for the count after the third set, Nadal somehow came back to win the fourth and then opened a 4-2 lead in the fifth.
He then had a simple backhand passing shot that would have taken him to 40-15 and on the verge of 5-2, but he missed and Djokovic broke back.
"It's true I had a big mistake with 30-15, but it's not the moment to think about that," Nadal said.
"That's just another moment in an almost six-hour match. Forget about that, knowing that I had very real chances to have the title and to win against a player who I lost to six times last year.
"I never put him in this situation during 2011, so that's another positive thing for me. I didn't have mental problems today against him.
"So that's another positive thing. I've probably never said that many positive things after I lose."
AFPTags: tennis, sport, australian-open, melbourne-3000 First posted January 30, 2012 07:06:58