Rafael Nadal became the biggest casualty of the Australian Open first round after being knocked out by fellow-Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in five sets in Melbourne. Nadal, who had beaten Verdasco to on his way to winning his own major title Down Under in 2009, led by two sets to one and then a break in the fifth before wilting as he suffered his maiden first round exit at the opening grand slam of the season.
The number five seed missed an opportunity to go 3-0 up in the decider before Verdasco rattled off six straight games to cruise into round two after a match lasting four hours and 40 minutes. The 32-year-old will face Israel's Dudi Sela in the next round before a potential match-up with Jeremy Chardy in the last 32.
"He played better than me," the 14-time major winner Nadal said. "He played more aggressive than me. He taked more risks than me, and he won. Probably he deserved. The match is a tough loss 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.
"In terms of being competitive, I was competitive. In terms of creating damage to the opponent with my forehand, I didn't. So I was hitting forehands, and he was able to keep hitting winners [That] cannot happen when I am hitting my forehand.
"The opponent, if he wants to hit a winner is because he take too much risk. In my opinion was not the case of today. I was hitting winners. I was hitting forehands. He was able to keep going for big shots in a not very bad position. That was the biggest issue for me today. I don't know a hundred percent the reason, to be honest. I was doing that good on the practices and the previous tournaments. Was not the case today."
"I played unbelievably in the fifth set," Verdasco gleamed. "I don't know how I did it. I closed my eyes and everything went in. I tried to be aggressive. 2009 was maybe the only day that I hit harder. I didn't want to make the match longer than that - to win against Rafa when you're sets down is unbelievable."
There were no such problems for Spanish seeds David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez however following their respective straightforward wins over Poland's Peter Gojowszyk and Dan Evans of Great Britain. Eleventh seed Kevin Anderson became another surprise exit after he retired injured during the fourth set of his match with American Rajeev Ram. Big serving duo John Isner and Milos Raonic are however safely through.
In the women's draw, third seed Garbine Muguruza made short work of Anett Kontaveit of Estonia for the loss of just four games on a day where the top seeds largely prevailed. Angelique Kerber, Karoline Pliskova, Ana Ivanovic and Madison Keys also made it through.