Well, Verdasco upsetting Nadal 7-6(6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 is the kind of match grand slams are all about! Unfortunately, it was too early for me to watch but even the highlights were a treat.
The reason I listed this match as one of the first round matches of interest in my draw post is because this is the kind of thing you can get from Verdasco on a good day. When his game is on he can defeat literally anyone.
Not that I think Nadal is the same player he was before, but it’s still the best of five sets and from the sound of it Nadal didn’t play particularly poorly either. It only takes a slight drop in level from him for someone like Verdasco to cause the upset.
I see from the highlights that Nadal served a double fault at 6-6 in the first set tiebreak which is uncharacteristic and a symptom of the fact that he has never reached his best level since his drop in form again.
— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) January 19, 2016
And yet, he won the next two sets to take a 2-1 lead. You’d think after that he would seal the deal especially after breaking back in the fourth set. But then Verdasco plays a terrific tiebreak and it’s all squared.
In the fifth set, Nadal goes a break up and leads 2-0, but then it seems Verdasco just starts hitting winners almost at will and wins the next six games and the match. Extraordinary scenes.
Verdasco’s forehand especially is one of the most devastating shots in tennis when he’s playing well, but his serve is not far behind. The guy has serious firepower and when you catch him on a good day you better be prepared.
The margins are very small at this level and I don’t think this loss means Nadal’s level has all of a sudden dropped again from his recent improvements. It just means he got a tough draw and I never thought he would get back to his very best level anyway.
Verdasco on the run hits 111mph forehand winner down the line for a winner. my god what a shot pic.twitter.com/6jXfhKGVSd
— Mo Tafolla (@MoTafolla) January 19, 2016
He is too one-dimensional and now that he lost some matches and confidence as he aged he is unable to adapt. Whether he will be Djokovic’s main rival this year like I thought would happen is in doubt again, but he will keep fighting.
So, as usual, the draw has opened up and Stan becomes a bigger threat again. He still has a relatively tough draw but it could also open up more. I do hope that Verdasco can keep up his level because he can now make quarters at least.
He is just an extremely exciting player to watch when he is even relatively mentally stable so the longer he stays in the draw the better.
- Elsewhere in the Draw
The other two big names in action, Murray and Stan, both progressed to the second round without dropping a set. Murray schooled Zverev 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 as expected while Stan was up 7-6(2), 6-3 before Tursunov withdrew.
Then Hewitt had a straight-set win over fellow Australian Duckworth in his final Australian Open which was nice to see. Australians would also have been happy to see Tomic advance in four sets from whom I expect a deep run.
Another slam-winning outfit for Stanimal?
Raonic is someone else I expect a deep run from and he quickly took care of Pouille 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Two players who showed good form of late, Sock and Troicki, survived their first rounds in five sets.
Another match which I mentioned as a match of interest in my draw post was Fognini vs Muller of which I watched the beginning. It provided good tennis as I thought but Muller won 7-6(8), 6-7(9), 7-6(5), 7-6(1).
Other than Nadal and Fognini the only other seed that lost was Anderson who had to withdraw in the fourth set against Ram. So not the start to the season my big fellow countryman would have hoped for but he will be back.
- Match Stats
The is in your court.