Fernando Verdasco caused a major upset by beating number 5 seed Rafael Nadal in the first round of the Australian open. Verdasco stunned Nadal 7-6 4-6 3-6 7-6 6-2 with one of the best displays of power tennis ever seen at the ROD LAVER ARENA.
Almost every rally was an opportunity for Verdasco to attempt a winner. Especially in the final set he kept his nerves to hit winner after winner. Verdasco, beaten by Nadal in the semi-finals in 2009, showed a lot of fighting spirit earlier in the match to stay in touch when Nadal threatened to dominate the contest. After letting a 5-2 lead slip in the fourth set Verdasco dug deep to win the tie-break and force Nadal into a fifth set.
Nadal did not play bad at all, he simply was outplayed sometimes as Verdasco hit 20 aces, 10 return winners, and 50+ groundstroke winners in an awesome display of power tennis. At 2-2 in the deciding set, a brilliant power forehand -he showed throughout the 5 set contest- put Verdasco ahead and the world number 45 never looked back, winning 6 games in a row. Verdasco said; “I played unbelievably in the fifth set, I don’t know how I did it. I closed my eyes and almost everything went in.”
Nadal, who had a 14-2 record after the pair’s 16 previous meetings, talked about his game and the way tennis has changed following his -first ever- first round loss at the Australian open. Nadal said; “Everybody now tries to hit all the balls, there are no balls that you can prepare the point. The game has become a little bit more crazy in this aspect.”
Nadal a spent force or not
Is Rafael Nadal finished at the highest level? It would be foolish to retire Nadal because of his unbelievable records over the past decade. But after his first round loss, you wonder if Nadal can still mount a true comeback to become the force he once was.
Since his last grand slam victory at ROLAND GARROS 2014, Nadal didn’t reach a semi-final at all and was well beaten in the earlier rounds at some of the grand slams. Almost turning 30 and being a player who gave it all on every point, pounding his legs with every step, ripping away cartilage with every pivot. Nadal wasn’t designed for longevity, his game is build on sheer power + speed and once that speed slows down just a little bit, it shows that even the mighty Nadal can be vulnerable.
Is he done winning grand slams? I honestly believe he will still be capable of winning big matches, especially at ROLAND GARROS, but time is catching up very fast. His body is beaten up, he has had quite a lot of tough injuries and I don’t expect him to play into his mid-thirties, only time will tell this year if he can still be a contender at grand slam level.
Author: Vincent Bons // Photography: Getty Images Sport
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