Australian Open 2016: Rafael Nadal loses to Fernando Verdasco

Tuesday 19th January , 2016 9:55 am
Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco played for four hours and 40 minutes (Image credit: Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco played for four hours and 40 minutes (Image credit: Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal suffered the only first-round exit of his career at the Australian Open after Fernando Verdasco recorded a stunning five-set win.

The Spanish left-handers produced an exhibition of hard-hitting to thrill those inside the Rod Laver Arena over four hours and 40 minutes.

Verdasco saved a break point to prevent going 3-0 down in the decider, going on to win 7-6 (8-6) 4-6 3-6 7-6 (4-7) 6-2.

The world number 45 hit 90 winners and meets Israel’s Dudi Sela in round two.

His display throughout thrilled spectators and his momentum in the deciding set saw him win six-straight games to shock the fifth seed, who managed 37 winners in comparison.

“I played unbelievably in the fifth set,” said Verdasco, 32. “I don’t know how I did it. I closed my eyes and everything went in.”

Verdasco – beaten by Nadal in the semi-finals in 2009 – showed grit to stay in touch when his compatriot threatened to dominate.

After surrendering a 5-2 lead in the fourth set, he dug deep to win the tie-break and take the match the distance.

At 2-2 in the decider a glorious forehand – packed with the type of power he had showed throughout the contest – put Verdasco ahead and he never looked back.

Rafa Nadal waves to spectators

Rafael Nadal last won the Australian Open in 2009 (Image credit: Reuters)

Analysis: BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller

“Wasn’t that one of the most thrilling final-set performances we’ve ever seen? How he had the nerve to hit winner after winner was unbelievable. Phenomenal stuff from Verdasco. He was hitting the ball so hard.”

Analysis: Great Britain Davis Cup captain Leon Smith

“I cannot believe what we have just seen. The bravery Verdasco showed. It is sad to see Rafa go but it’s remarkable to see the performances like Verdasco’s are possible. That will have shaken up a lot of those in the locker room.”

Injuries and a 24-game decider

Ernests Gulbis

Ernests Gulbis of Latvia produced 25 aces but went down 13-11 in a deciding set (Image credit: Getty Images)

Verdasco’s quarter of the draw produced some drama on day two of the first Grand Slam of 2016, not least in a four hour and 43 minute match on court 19 as Jeremy Chardy beat Ernests Gulbis 13-11 in a deciding fifth set.

Frenchman Chardy – seeded 30 – edged through in temperatures around 31C in Melbourne and could now meet Verdasco in round three.

Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka is in the same quarter of the draw but he will not have to worry about an early meeting with big-serving South African Kevin Anderson.

The 29-year-old – who knocked Andy Murray out of last year’s US Open – trailed American Rajeev Ram before retiring hurt in the fourth set.

Wawrinka – who plays Dmitry Tursunov later – could meet Murray at the semi-final stage if the draw goes according to seeding.

Guarding against a grind

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic will play Tommy Robredo in round two (Getty Images)

Tenth seed John Isner – one of the biggest servers in the game – is a potential threat to Murray at the quarter-final stage and slammed 37 aces as he beat Jerzy Janowicz in straight sets.

Isner is one of seven Americans in round two – the most since nine progressed in 2009 – and one more is guaranteed to progress when Jack Sock meets Taylor Harry Fritz.

Elsewhere, 13th seed Milos Raonic explained he now wears a mouthguard during matches to prevent him from grinding his teeth.

The 25-year-old, who beat Frenchman Lucas Pouille in straight sets, says grinding his teeth causes “stress and headaches”, adding: “I guess maybe it’s just a way to calm myself down.”

Wimbledon runner-up progresses

Ana Ivanovic

Ana Ivanovic is a crowd favourite in Melbourne and eased through on Tuesday (Image credit: Reuters)

In the women’s draw, Garbine Muguruza – beaten by Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final last year – opened play in the Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday.

The world number three – on court before Great Britain’s Johanna Konta beat Venus Williams – has never gone past round two in Melbourne but looked in complete control as she overcame Anett Kontaveit 6-0 6-4 in just 60 minutes.

Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens awaits Muguruza next and 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic improved on her first-round exit in this tournament last year.

The Serb, 28, beat wildcard Tammi Patterson 6-2 6-3 and meets qualifier Anastasija Sevastova next.



Source: BBC