(January 19, 2016) In the biggest upset of the Australian Open tournament so far on the men’s side, 2009 winner and fifth seed Rafael Nadal lost to his Spanish countryman Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the first round on Tuesday in Melbourne.
The four-hour, 41-minute victory for the 45th ranked Verdasco, avenges a 5-hour, 14-minute five-set semifinal loss to Nadal in 2009, when Nadal went on to win the tournament.
“I think today’s match was kind of like very similar in terms of even games in the sets, going to a five set,” said Verdasco. “But, you know, of course the beginning of the fifth I was for a second thinking about that semifinals. I was like, Please, I don’t want to lose, you know, with a double-fault in 5-4, 30-40.
“He start breaking my serve. After that, I start playing, like, really good, hitting very hard serve, forehand, and don’t making many mistakes. So, you know, very happy with the way that I finished the match.”
Nadal came into the match with a 14-2 head-to-head record against his compatriot, losing 2 out the last three times to Verdasco. Those losses coming in 2012 in Madrid and 2015 in Miami.
After going down a break to open the fifth set and Nadal consolidating it for a 2-0 lead, Verdasco won the next six straight games to seal the victory.
In the tale of the tape, Verdasco hit 90 winners to 91 unforced errors, while Nadal hit 37 winners to 38 unforced errors. Verdasco was 25 for 27 in net points won. Verdasco won a total of 182 points during the match to Nadal’s 180.
“To win against Rafa here coming from two sets down is unbelievable,” Verdasco said on court after the match. “I think I played unbelievable…..the fifth set from the break that he made me, I just started hitting winners. I don’t know how, just, you know I was closing the eyes and everything was coming in and I keep doing it and I was doing well.”
“But I am not happy about the way that I played the first(set),” Nadal said. “In the fourth I was not very bad, but he played better than me, too. I had my chances in the fourth, too, with that Love-30 that he played well. That’s it.
“He played better than me. He played more aggressive than me. He taked more risks than me, and he won.”
“The match is a tough lose for me obviously. Obviously is tough, especially because is not like last year that I arrived here playing bad and feeling myself not ready for it.
“This year was a completely different story. I have been playing and practicing great and working so much. You know, is tough when you work so much and arrives a very important event and you’re going out too early.
“Is tough, but at the same time, I know I did everything that I can to be ready for it. Was not my day. Let’s keep going. That’s the only thing.
“No, no, there is no more things to do than keep practicing hard, keep practicing the same way that I was doing the last four, five months.
“Today I was not ready to compete the way that I was practicing, so not happy with that. That’s it. I hope the next time I can compete better than what I did today, because I was playing good.”
“Honestly, I work hard this pre-season,” Verdasco said. “It was a long one for me. I think I work pretty hard trying to be as best as possible for this season – not only for this tournament, of course. And to be ready to play five-set matches against the best players in the world and be ready for that.
“And today I was feeling very good the whole match physically. Even the fifth set, like I said at the beginning, is the best set of all five that I played, no, after the 2-0.
“Very happy for all the work and all the suffering during that pre-season. Is going to make me enjoy today’s victory even more. But, like I said before, also know that is still only first round and I will have another match Thursday. In 24 hours I will start thinking about that match again.”
For Nadal, the loss marks the first time since 2007 at the Australian Open that a Top 5 seed has lost in the first round. In 2007 No. 4 Ivan Ljubicic lost in the opening round.
Verdasco moves on to the second round where he will play Israel’s Dudi Sela.
Men’s seeds advancing were No. 2 Andy Murray, No. 4 Stan Wawrinka, No. 8 David Ferrer, No. 10 John Isner, No. 13 Milos Raonic, No. 16 Bernard Tomic, No. 18 Feliciano Lopez, No. 23 Gael Monfils, No. 25 Jack Sock, No. 30 Jeremy Chardy, and No. 31 Steve Johnson. advanced, a
Former No. 1, two-time major champion, Australian Lleyton Hewitt, who is playing his 20th and final Australian Open tournament won in straight sets over his countryman James Duckworth.