But Rafael Nadal is no ordinary man, and as he spoke at 1.05am having walked off court just moments before, he was happy beyond measure. Tired, but very happy.
He had just overpowered Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 5-7, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 in four hours and 56 minutes of scintillating, breathtaking and, at times, unbelievable tennis. And now he was through to the Australian Open final, where he will face Roger Federer, his old friend and foe.
It is his first Grand Slam final since Roland Garros 2014, and it is a match he never dreamed he could be playing in.
Just three months ago he was barely able to hold a racket as he waited for the injured tendon in his wrist to heal. Back then, the goal was just to be able to play again, to get back to work. Now, in his second tournament of the new season, he is facing Federer for the Australian Open title.
“It’s amazing to be through to a final of Grand Slam again here in Australia at the start of the year,” he said. “It means a lot to me.
Rafa Nadal has expressed his delight at making the Australian Open final
Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal rivalry in Grand Slam finals
Fri, January 27, 2017
Click through the gallery for the best snaps of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal's rivalry in Grand Slam finals
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Click through the gallery for the best snaps of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal's
“It is special to play with Roger again in a final of a Grand Slam. I cannot lie. It is great. It is exciting for me and for both of us that we are still there and we are still fighting for important events. That’s important for us, very special.
“After that, it’s a final. I hope to be ready to compete well again. I need to go back to the hotel, to rest well, and to recover.”
Eight times they have met in major finals and Nadal has won all but twice. Their last duel was in 2011 for the French silverware but Federer has to go back 10 years for his last victory – at Wimbledon in 2007.
The record book, then, favours Nadal as he heads into tomorrow’s dream final but the crowd just wants to see the two old rivals go toe-to-toe one last time. Federer is 35 years old, Nadal 30 – there may not be many matches like this left in their careers.
“It’s amazing for me,” Nadal said, “for me and I think for tennis, too. It’s the combination of two different styles that makes the matches really special.
Rafa Nadal will go up against old foe Roger Federer
“It’s a different way to play tennis. Both of us have a lot of good success with these two different styles. I feel that this rivalry lives not only in the tennis world. People from outside of our world talk about this, and that’s good for our sport. It’s good that we are back there.”
Against Dimitrov, it was the Nadal of old, the raging bull, who won the day. The athleticism and aggression of both men had the crowd on its feet; the defence and the counter-punching had the TV commentators in raptures. And the sheer nerve of both men when their backs were to the wall was riveting.
Only at the very end, after four and threequarter hours of lung-bursting effort, did Dimitrov falter and Nadal pounce.
“Both of us deserve to be in that final,” Nadal said. “It was a great fight. Finally it was me who won. I feel lucky. I am very happy for that.”
Happy, tired, and alive to fight another day.