NEW YORK -- Toward the end of his press conference Sunday, Rafael Nadal suddenly stopped talking and leaned back in his chair. He closed his eyes and grimaced. He started taking unnaturally big breaths.
Then all hell broke loose.
Nadal slid off his chair and lay down on the floor behind a big desk. The International Tennis Federation representative hurriedly cleared Interview Room No. 1 and had the lights killed. Still, cameras and microphones allowed the whole 15-minute drama to be seen and heard.
It was truly extraordinary to witness. Trainers and members of his team rushed to his aid, speaking swiftly in Spanish. Complaining of leg cramps -- the classic symptoms of dehydration -- Nadal received ice and water.
Nadal had just beaten David Nalbandian 7-6 (5), 6-1, 7-5 on a hot and particularly humid day. He was pulled to his feet and walked off the stage under his own power, but his legs were unsteady.
Five minutes later, Nadal returned to say he was fine. As if nothing had happened at all.
"I just have cramping in front and behind," he said. "That's why I, was so painful. That's all."
Later, Andy Roddick downplayed the incident:
"Not to put a dampener on the story, which I know you guys think is really big, but people cramp after matches when you're cold," Roddick said. "It's just something that happens. It's just unfortunate it happened in front of you all. Every single player in there has had that happen before. Every single one.
"What we do, we run around, run miles and miles and miles and miles on the tennis court in nasty weather. You throw nerves in there, I mean, it happens. As long as it doesn't happen during a match, you're fine."
This U.S. Open has already been visited by a record 14 retirements, but this episode memorably underlined how difficult the conditions have been.