Nadal Ready For A Fight In Melbourne
Spaniard to meet familiar foe in the first round
The last time Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco met at the Australian Open, in 2009, the two Spanish lefties left it all on the court. The underdog Verdasco struck 95 winners, but Nadal battled for five hours and 14 minutes before securing an epic 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(2), 6-7(1), 6-4 semi-final victory. Less than 48 hours later, Nadal would defeat Roger Federer for his lone Australian Open title to date.
“Obviously that match gave me the chance to win the only Australian Open that I have won,” Nadal said. “It was an unforgettable memory for me. I think the level of tennis was fantastic. There were some spectacular points. Many people always ask me about that match. It was a tough one, but a great experience.”
If Nadal hopes to double his Aussie Open title haul in 2016, he would be best served to conserve his energy this time around. The 29 year old is set to face Verdasco for the 17th time overall in the first round.
“It will be a very tough first round,” noted Nadal, who respects the Madrid native’s power game despite leading 14-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry. “It’s not a lucky first round for me, but not for him either. It’ll be a tough match. I need to be ready to play very good tennis if I want to go through.”
The Mallorcan has good reasons to be alert. He has lost five of his last six hard court matches played against lefties, dating back to 2014. Verdasco stopped him 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 in Miami last spring in a slugfest lasting over two hours, while Feliciano Lopez, Michael Berrer and Martin Klizan have also beaten him in that span.
“I have played a lot against lefties, so we’ll see,” noted Nadal, who has carved out an excellent 76-12 record against southpaws at tour-level events. “Here it’s not about playing against a lefty, it’s more about playing against a player who has a huge potential, and is able to reach a great level of tennis. If you are not playing your best, it’s very, very dangerous match.”