Rafael Nadal’s Grand Slam struggles continued Tuesday at the Australian Open where Nadal suffered his earliest exit ever at the event losing to countryman Fernando Verdasco in five sets 76(6), 46, 36, 76(4), 62.
“The biggest problem was the first set, in my opinion,” Nadal said. “He was not playing that well in the first set. I should take advantage there, but I didn’t. Then you lose the first. You play against a player that has a good potential and he’s able to hit the ball so hard and take risk, then you are under pressure the rest of the match.”
After dropping that tight first set, Nadal gained control of the match winning the second and the third, but was unable put Verdasco away. Verdasco came back to take the fourth but Nadal couldn’t hold a 2-0 lead as Verdasco won the last six games pull the upset.
“The match is five sets,” Nadal said. “There is not only last set. He was playing amazing in the last set. If you decide everything in one set, the opponent is ready to hit all the balls at hundred percent, then you are in trouble. He had a lot of success hitting all the balls full power in the fifth. I have to congratulate him.
“I am not happy about the way that I played the first. 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. Probably he deserved.”
Verdasco ended the match out muscling Nadal with 20 aces and 90 winners including 41 off his forehand side.
“I just started hitting winners, I don’t know how,” Verdasco told the crowd. “I was just closing the eyes and everything was going in.”
In his last three Slams, Nadal has now lost in the second round at Wimbledon, the third round at the US Open and now just his second career first round loss.
“I have been playing and practicing great and working so much,” said Nadal. “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.”
Nadal had led Verdasco 13-0 in their head-to-head including a thrilling 5-set win on Rod Laver in the 2009 Australian Open semifinals. But Verdasco has won three of the last four as Nadal continues to decline.
“The real thing is I was not enough aggressive with my forehand during the whole match,” Nadal said. “I didn’t feel it. I tried. I fighted. I was ready to do it, and I didn’t. So I am sad for that.”
While Rafael Nadal flies home, Verdasco goes on to face Dudi Sela in the second round on Thursday. And the loss clears the path for 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka.
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