Tennis fans who were looking for some Rafael Nadal magic in the Australian Open yesterday were in for a bitter disappointment. The Mallorcan was knocked out in only the first round of the tournament by compatriot Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.
The marathon test of nerves, which lasted four hours and forty minutes, had tennis pundits wondering whether Nadal is really past his prime. Winner of 14 Grand Slam titles, and ranking at No. 5 at present, the 29-year-old has managed only 3 ATP tour titles in the past year.
2015 was the first year since 2004 in which Nadal failed to win a Grand Slam title. His defeat in yesterday’s match is only the second time in his career that he has had to exit a Grand Slam tournament in the first round.
This was the third time in 17 encounters that Verdasco was able to defeat Nadal. The last Grand Slam he won was the French Open in 2014. Last year, he was out of Wimbledon in the second round and the US Open in the third.
Though the match was a heartbreaking defeat for Rafa, everything seemed to be going right for his opponent. Verdasco’s performance featured 20 aces, 57 ground stroke winners and 10 return winners, leaving him in an elated frame of mind to advance to the second round, where he’ll be facing Dudi Sela of Israel. Nadal fans can only hope the rest of the year brings better results for their favorite.