Rafael Nadal suffers shock first round ouster at Australian Open
World No 5 Rafael Nadal, playing his first round match against compatriot Fernando Verdasco at the 2016 Australian Open, was ousted by his rival in a five-set match reminiscent of the pair’s last Australian Open meeting, which came at the 2009 semi-finals.
Verdasco won the first set before Nadal wrestled control right back – although it was the former No. 1 who choked in the end, with Verdasco taking charge of the final set in stunning fashion, eventually winning 7-6(6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 in a match that lasted four hours and forty minutes.
Nadal, who prior to this match held a mammoth 15-2 head-to-head against his Davis Cup teammate, was expected to win, although not easily – but now sees his run at the Australian Open brought to a halt.
This is the first time Nadal has not progressed beyond the first round of the Australian Open.
The 2009 result had gone the way of Nadal, although it had been just as drawn out as today’s match. Winning 6-7(4) 6-4 7-6(2) 6-7(1) 6-4, Nadal would go on to win the title as he beat Roger Federer in another five setter.
45th-ranked Verdasco has tested Nadal in the past, and even beaten him on his pet surface – clay, but it could be argued the surface is a mainstay of Spanish players, who thrive on it.
Verdasco has only managed to seriously trouble his Davis Cup teammate on a few occasions, with Nadal usually cruising to victory.
Today, it was the lower-ranked Spaniard who took the first set, but then faltered slightly as he fired a series of unforced errors across court. In fact, Verdasco’s game was significantly more error-strewn than Nadal’s, with the former hitting 90 unforced errors to Nadal’s 38.
It was also Nadal’s serve that seriously faltered today, with the King of Clay managing only 37 winners to his opponent’s mammoth 90 in the course of the match. Verdasco's serves were faster and more powerful than his opponent’s, as he won more than 65% of points on his first serve.
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have both won their first round matches, with Federer now drawn to play Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine, while Djokovic faces less of a challenge in French teen Quentin Halys.
Prior to Nadal’s ouster, the biggest upset had been that of 8th seed Venus Williams, who suffered a straight sets defeat to Britain’s No. 1 Johanna Konta.