Fourteen-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal crashed out of the Australian Open in the first round itself after losing to fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-7 6-4, 6-4 6-7 2-6. This is the first time that Nadal has had a first-round exit in the Australian Open and second time in a major tournament. The loss extended the 29-year-old's dry spell in Grand Slams, which goes back to the 2014 French Open.
In a game dominated by powerful backhands, the World No 5 was slow off the blocks, conceding the first set in a tie-breaker. Nadal did power back in the next two sets, winning easily and it seemed that the first was only a blip. However, the 32-year-old Verdasco came back brilliantly in the fourth set to force a tie-breaker with some astounding backhands and then went on to win it.
It boiled down to the last set where Verdasco sped up to a 4-2 lead. Nadal desperately tried to stay in the match but could not hold on, finally going down 2-6 in the final set. The five-set thriller lasted four hours and 41 minutes and brought back memories of their epic 2009 semi-final in the same tournament. Nadal had then won in five hours and 14 minutes – the second-longest match in the tournament's history – on the way to his only Australian Open title.