Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Nadal, Venus ousted in first round of Australian Open

Published:Wednesday | January 20, 2016 | 1:00 AM
Rafael Nadal of Spain waves to the crowd as he leaves Rod Laver Arena after losing to compatriot Fernando Verdasco in their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, yesterday.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP):

For five sets and nearly five hours, two chiselled Spanish left-handers went head to head again at the Australian Open.

It wasn't a semi-final this time, though, and It didn't end nearly as well for Rafael Nadal, who lost 7-6 (6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 to Fernando Verdasco and was eliminated in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament for only the second time in a career that has netted him 14 major titles.

Nadal won his only Australian title in 2009 after overcoming Verdasco in a five-hour, 14-minute semi-final - a match that still ranks among the classics at Melbourne Park.

This time, Verdasco rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win the last two sets and come from a break down in the fifth to win in 4:41 and reach the second round. Nadal's only previous first-round exit in a Grand Slam was at Wimbledon in 2013, when he lost in straight sets to No. 135-ranked Steve Darcis of Belgium.

"It's a hard and painful loss," the fifth-seeded Nadal said. "He was playing amazing in the last set ... more aggressive than me. He took more risks than me, and he won. Probably he deserved."

overshadowed

No. 2 Simona Halep and seven-time Grand Slam-winner Venus Williams also went out in the first round yesterday, when a series of upsets took some focus off a match-fixing controversy that had overshadowed the first day of the season's first major.

Halep, the 2014 French Open finalist, lost 6-4, 6-3 to Zhang Shuai, giving the No. 133-ranked Chinese qualifier her first win at a Grand Slam after 14 losses.

"It's OK. I don't want to make this match like dramatic," said Halep, who refused to blame an Achilles tendon problem for contributing to her third first-round loss in five years at Melbourne Park.

After beating Halep, Zhang burst into tears when asked about breaking the drought.

"I think in my life, it's the best tennis," she said. "To win against a top-two player, I'm so happy, so excited."

Williams lost 6-4, 6-2 to Johanna Konta, her eighth first-round loss at a major.

No. 3 Garbine Muguruza and No. 7 Angelique Kerber advanced along with two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, who closed play on centre court with a 6-0, 6-0 rout of Alison Van Uytvanck.

No. 2-ranked Murray opened with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 win over Alexander Zvereva.