Rafael Nadal wants you to know he is going to keep trying.
During this off-season the 14-time Grand Slam champion looked to put his epic confidence issues from 2015 behind him.
It didn’t work.
The 29-year-old Spaniard, losing in the first round of a Slam for only the second time in his career, fell on Tuesday to No. 45-ranked compatriot Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco in five sets, blowing a 2-1 set lead 7-6(6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2.
“It’s tough, but at the same time, I know I did everything that I can to be ready for it,” said Nadal of the encounter, which was a rematch of their brutal 2009 Australian Open semifinal which Nadal won in five sets.
Nadal was left to repeat what has become his mantra — ignore the result, focus on the next tournament, pretend everything will be OK.
In other upsets American Rajeev “The Rampras” Ram advanced when No. 11 Kevin Anderson retired in the fourth set of their contest, and Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller edged a strangely portly-appearing No. 20 seed Fabio Fognini 7-6(6), 7-6(7), 6-7(5), 7-6(1).
Top 10 winners victorious into the second round were No. 2 Andy Murray rolling German Alexander Zverev 6-1, 6-2, 6-3; No. 4 Stanislas Wawrinka advancing when Russian Dmitry Tursunov retired at 7-6(2), 6-3; No. 8 David Ferrer defeating German Peter Gojowczyk 6-4, 6-4, 6-2; and No. 10 John Isner routine-ing Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz 6-3, 7-6(7), 6-3.
“He’s obviously very good,” said Murray after confounding the up-and-coming German Zverev with off-pace play, utilizing the entire court with his favorite drop shot. “There’s a lot of good, young players coming through just now. He’s quite different to a lot of the other ones. He’s much, much taller, which has benefits. Some negatives, as well. It might take him a little bit longer to develop into his body and stuff…He has big, big reach on the returns. He times the ball pretty good, so he’s got a lot of potential.”
Isner dropped 36 aces on Janowicz in the straight-set win.
“It’s a tough first round, for sure,” the American said. “Given his credentials, he’s a big player. He was hitting some big serves out there. I stayed composed in that second-set tiebreaker. It was very critical. I was able to get that one under my belt, win the third set pretty easy. Three sets, not that long out there — I’m very happy.”
Other seeded winners on the day were No. 13 Milos Raonic, No. 16 Bernard “The Tank Engine” Tomic, No. 18 Feliciano “F-Lo” Lopez, No. 21 Viktor Troicki who outlasted Daniel Munoz in five, No. 23 Gael “Force” Monfils, No. 25 Jack Sock needing five sets to beat compatriot Taylor Fritz, No. 30 Jeremy Chardy who beat Ernests Gulbis 13-11 in the fifth, No. 31 Steve Johnson, and No. 32 Joao Sousa.
The slew of unseeded noticeables into the second round included Lleyton Hewitt, Lukas Rosol who beat Japan’s Taro Daniel in five, Radek “The Worm” Stepanek, Simone Bolelli who edged American comeback player Brian Baker in four tiebreaks, France’s Nicolas Mahut, and Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo who outlasted Malek Jaziri 8-6 in the fifth.
The Worm will next face the No. 4-seeded Wawrinka, who is wary of the Czech’s all-court disruptive game.
“Always a tough opponent,” the Swiss said. “Play him last year in Tokyo. Tough match. He’s always playing good. He qualifies or qualifying here, I think. Quite fast surface, so he should serve and volley, playing flat. All depends little bit how I’m going to play. If I’m serving well, playing well, aggressive, hopefully I can made it through.”
Hewitt beat Aussie compatriot James Duckworth 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-4, and will try and keep his retirement tour rolling in the second round against the No. 8 seed Ferrer.
“He’s like a brick wall out there,” Hewitt said of Ferrer, who he is 1-2 career against. “He competes as well as anyone on tour. He moves great. Everyone thinks he just makes balls, but he’s a pretty aggressive baseliner out there. He doesn’t get back too far behind the court. I give myself a fighting chance…If it doesn’t go my way the next match, then so be it. Everything in my control. I’m going out there to give it my best shot.”
Highlight matches to look for on Wednesday in Melbourne include (3) Roger Federer vs. the tricky Alexandr “The Dog” Dolgopolov, (19) Dominic Thiem on upset alert vs. veteran Nicolas Almagro, the Benoit-killer (WC) Noah Rubin of the U.S. vs. Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert, No. 1 Novak Djokovic in action against unheralded Frenchman Quentin Halys, and Aussie hope (29) Nick Kyrgios the last night match on Hisense Arena vs. Pablo Cuevas.
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