Tuesday, January 19, 2016 9:24 am
Rafael Nadal has been handed a first round exit from the Australian Open, falling in a gruelling five-set encounter to compatriot Fernando Verdasco.
Nadal was leading in the fifth set 2-0, but Verdasco produced a formidable response, that he himself confessed didn’t know where it came from, to turn the game around, winning the next six games. Verdasco reeled off a succession of winners, aces to stun a passive Nadal.
The match ended 7-6 6-4 6-3 7-6 6-2.
Verdasco had won the first set in a tie-break, but Nadal rallied to win the next two sets, only for Verdasco to force another tie break in the fourth set, which again he won.
“I had my chances in the fourth (set) too… He played better than me. He was more aggressive than me. He took more risks than me,”said Nadal.
Verdasco said of his fifth set run: “I think I played unbelievable in the fifth set….I kept hitting winners…I don’t know how.”
The former world number one, seeded fifth in Melbourne was not the only big name shoved out of the tournament.
America’s Venus Williams, seeded eighth has also been sent packing.
She was beaten in two straight sets, 4-6 2-6 by Johanna Konta, a British-Australian player ranked 46th in the world.
Romania’s Simona Halep, seeded two was also shown the door by China’s Shuai Zhang 4-6 3-6, ranked 133 in the world.
“I am excited about today, I played so well,” she said, eventually. “I think in my life, the best tennis. First win – I’m so happy, so excited. I want to say thank you to my parents, my coach. Thank you everybody for supporting me,” said the 26 year old player, ranked third in her country.