Nadal Left Shaking His Head After Australian Open Exit
Rafael Nadal reacts to his early exit at Melbourne Park
Rafael Nadal was left shaking his head on Tuesday at the Australian Open after he suffered just his second first-round exit at a Grand Slam championship.
The 2009 champion and fifth seed seed insisted he felt competitive during his five-set loss to fellow Spaniard and left-hander Fernando Verdasco, but could not explain how he had failed to convert practice court form into a match situation.
"The match is a tough one to lose for me obviously," said Nadal. "It's not like last year, when I arrived here playing bad and not feeling ready for it. This year was a completely different story. I have been playing and practising great and working so much. It is tough when you work so much and arrived at a very important event and you're going out too early.
"I know I did everything that I could to be ready for it. It was not my day. There is no more things to do other than keep practising hard and keep practising the same way that I have been doing for the past four, five months."
Nadal led 2-0 in the fifth set, but Verdasco reeled off six games for a 7-6(6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 in four hours and 41 minutes.
"In terms of being competitive, I was competitive," said Nadal, who is now 14-3 lifetime against Verdasco. "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. [It] cannot happen when I am hitting my forehand... That was the biggest issue for me today.
"I was not enough aggressive with my forehand during the whole match. I didn't feel it. I tried. I fought. I was ready to do it, [but] I didn't... [But] I don't know [one] hundred per cent the reason, to be honest."
The only other time that Nadal had lost in the first round of a Grand Slam champion was at Wimbledon 2013, when he lost to Belgium's Steve Darcis.
"I play majors the same way I play other tournaments all the year," said Nadal. "All my life, I have played every tournament by putting all that I have there... I try my best in every single match of the year. That's it. Sometimes you have success; sometimes you do not. Today it is obvious that I didn't.
"He played so aggressive, and the serve was huge for him today. I just [want to] congratulate him because he deserved [it], and I wish him all the best for the rest of the tournament."
Seven years ago, Verdasco arrived in Melbourne having spent the off-season working with Andre Agassi's former trainer, Gil Reyes. In the best shape of his life, he swept into the Australian Open semi-finals, but was unable to get the better of Nadal in a five-set loss. At five hours and 14 minutes, it was the second-longest match (in terms of duration) in the championship's history.