The “Happy Slam” got even happier on opening day Monday when unseeded up-and-coming Aussie Bernard Tomic came from two sets down to upset No. 22 seed Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco 4-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 in hot conditions at the Australian Open.
“It was probably one of the best matches for me that I played,” the 19-year-old Tomic said. “I haven’t played a lot of these five-setters. So being not that fit, it’s tough to put your mind to come through that, and I don’t know how I did it today…I’m so happy with myself.”
Verdasco, who said he suffered from stomach pains for much of the match, looked fitness-challenged in the heat, contributing numerous unforced errors against the off-speed game of the Aussie.
“It was very hot out there,” Verdasco said. “I started feeling a little bit bad on the court. I think that after he won the third set he got confidence, and I didn’t really feel good ’til the fifth set…I think he played well and he deserve (to win) and he was fighting all the time.”
Tomic will next meet American Sam Querrey, who beat French wildcard Kenny De Schepper in straight sets.
World No. 2 Rafael Nadal supplied additional injury drama on Monday as the Spaniard revealed he heard a crack from his right knee the previous day.
“Yesterday afternoon happened the more strange thing ever happen to me,” Nadal said. “I stand up. I felt the knee a little bit strange…the knee stays with unbelievable pain…I have no movement on the knee.”
An MRI showed no issue with the knee, and on Monday the Spaniard rolled past American qualifier Alex Kuznetsov 6-4, 6-1, 6-1, his knee heavily wrapped.
“I started the match with a little bit of scare at the beginning and nervous because I was really disappointed yesterday,” Nadal said. “After the first 10 games that was scare, I started to play with normal conditions…The best thing is I felt the knee very well.”
Other Top 10-seeded victors Monday were (3) Roger Federer rolling past Russian Alex Kudryavtsev in straights, (7) Tomas Berdych defeating Alex Ramos of Spain in four, (8) Mardy Fish beating Gilles Muller in straights, and (10) Nicolas Almagro over Poland’s Lukas Kubot after losing the first set.
Unseeded Aussie Greg Jones attempted to join his compatriot Tomic as an upset winner, but failed to close the door after leading (13) Alexandr Dolgopolov two sets to none.
Also on the upset tip Monday were German Philipp Kohlschreiber toppling (25) Juan Monaco 6-0 in the fifth, Slovak Lukas Lacko edging (28) Ivan Ljubicic from two sets down, and Croat “Dr.” Ivo Karlovic straight-setting (31) Jurgen “Tuna” Melzer.
Other notable unseeded players into the second round were former Top 10ers David Nalbandian, Tommy Haas and Marcos Baghdatis.
Matches to look for on Tuesday in Melbourne include (1) Novak Djokovic vs. Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi, (4) Andy Murray vs. American Ryan Harrison, (15) Andy Roddick vs. Robin Haase, Uzbek Denis Istomin vs. (6) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Nicolas Mahut vs. (29) Radek “The Worm” Stepanek, Michael Llodra vs. “The Importance of Being” Ernests Gulbis, (9) Janko Tipsarevic vs. Dmitry Tursunov, and (19) Viktor Troicki vs. former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero.
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