Verdasco shocks Nadal in thriller, Murray safely through


It was a day to forget for Rafael Nadal as he was knocked out of the Australian Open's first round for the first time in his career after another epic encounter against Fernando Verdasco, as last year's runner-up Andy Murray cruised through to round two.

Nadal endured a difficult 2015 that saw him fail to win a grand slam for the first time since 2004, but a strong end to the season had given him hope of better things to come in the next 12 months.

However, his first slam of 2016 ended at the first hurdle as he lost a classic against Spanish compatriot Verdasco - who won through 7-6 (8-6) 4-6 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena.

It was an entirely different story for Murray, a four-time losing finalist in Melbourne, who brushed aside teenager Alexander Zverev 6-1 6-2 6-3, while Stan Wawrinka and home favourite Lleyton Hewitt - playing his 20th and final Australian Open - also made it to round two.



Nadal, seeded fifth this year in Melbourne, is indisputably one of the greatest of all time, but his latest setback will only increase the belief that his best days are behind him, particularly following high-profile losses to the likes of Fabio Fognini and Dustin Brown in last year's slams. Verdasco meanwhile gained revenge after losing a thrilling five-set semi-final to eventual winner Nadal in 2009.

Murray loves playing in Melbourne, as showcased by four visits to the final, and his quest to finally land the title started in blistering form against Zverev. Murray, who beat the German at the Hopman Cup this month, needed a little over two hours to get the job done.

Wawrinka (4) was leading by two sets in his match when Dmitry Tursunov retired with a hip injury, while two-time grand slam winner Hewitt prolonged his career by at least another match with a straight-sets win over fellow Aussie James Duckworth in front of a delighted Rod Laver crowd.



Nadal was not the only seed to exit early. Big-hitting Kevin Anderson (11) has proved a troublesome opponent for the big guns in the past and beat Murray at last year's US Open.

However, the South African has been troubled by a knee injury and was trailing Rajeev Ram 7-6 (7-4) 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 3-0 when he decided to call it quits.

Fabio Fognini (23) had one of the toughest draws on paper against world number 38 Gilles Muller and so it proved as the later prevailed in four with each set going to a tie-break.

Viktor Troicki almost joined them in departing at the first hurdle, but the 21st seed saved two match points in an epic five-set win over Daniel Munoz de la Nava.



Nadal had never before lost in the first round of the Australian Open.

The Spaniard has now lost back-to-back grand-slam matches for the first time in his career, having been shocked by Fognini at the US Open in September.

Murray had particular success at the net, winning 12 of 14 points when coming in from the baseline, while the Briton also capitalised on 43 unforced errors from Zverev.



"And this is the first round???? #highquality" Chris Evert soaks up the standard on display in Verdasco versus Nadal.

"Watching #Rusty playing @AustralianOpen ! Brings back old memories." Boris Becker enjoys seeing Lleyton Hewitt in action.



"He could do whatever he wants. He's the best athlete I've ever seen." - Carolina Panthers fan John Isner talks up quarterback Cam Newton, even suggesting he could have a career in tennis.

"It's tough because it's not like last year when I arrived playing bad. I had been playing and practising great." - Nadal struggles to comprehend his shock defeat.

"I just started hitting winners. I didn't know how. I was just closing the eyes and everything was going in." Verdasco admits it was just his day against Nadal.

"He's a big guy. Serves big and serve-and-volley tactics. He tries to get forward as much as he can. You don't see many players like that now," Murray believes second-round opponent Sam Groth is a throwback to the old days.

"It was a tough situation. To try and block it all out. I tried to stay in the moment as much as possible." - Hewitt on the emotion he felt on Rod Laver.



Having comfortably seen off Zverev, Murray has to negotiate a tricky second-round tie against home-favourite Groth on Thursday. Verdasco's reward for beating Nadal is a tie with Israel's Dudi Sela.
Wawrinka comes up against Radek Stepanek, while on Wednesday defending champion Novak Djokovic returns to face Quentin Halys and 17-time grand slam winner Roger Federer is in action against Alexandr Dolgopolov.



Andy Murray (2) beat Alexander Zverev 6-1 6-2 6-3
Stan Wawrinka (4) beat Dmitry Tursunov 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 retired
Fernando Verdasco beat Rafael Nadal (5) 7-6 (8-6) 4-6 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2
David Ferrer (8) beat Peter Gojowczyk 6-4 6-4 6-2
John Isner (10) beat Jerzy Janowicz 6-3 7-6 (9-7) 6-3
Rajeev Ram beat Kevin Anderson (11) 7-6 (7-4) 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 3-0 (retired)
Milos Raonic (13) beat Lucas Pouille 6-1 6-4 6-4
Bernard Tomic (16) beat Denis Istomin 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 6-4 6-4
Feliciano Lopez (18) beat Dan Evans 6-1 6-0 6-4
Gilles Muller beat Fabio Fognini (20) 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (9-7) 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-1)
Viktor Troicki (21) beat Daniel Munoz de la Nava 4-6 4-6 6-1 7-6 (7-4) 6-3
Gael Monfils (23) beat Yuichi Sugita 6-1 6-3 6-2
Jack Sock (25) beat Taylor Fritz 6-4 3-6 0-6 6-3 6-4
Jeremy Chardy (30) beat Ernests Gulbis 7-5 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 13-11
Steve Johnson (31) beat Aljaz Bedene 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-3)
Joao Sousa (32) beat Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3 6-4 6-3
Sam Groth beat Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 3-6 6-3
Stephane Robert beat Bjorn Fratangelo 6-2 6-2 6-2
Andrey Kuznetsov beat Ryan Harrison 7-5 6-4 6-4
Santiago Giraldo beat Donald Young 6-4 1-6 6-3 6-2
John Millman beat Diego Schwartzman 3-6 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 5-0 (retired)
Marcel Granollers beat Matthew Ebden 6-2 4-6 6-1 6-4
Dudi Sela beat Benjamin Becker 6-1 6-3 2-6 6-2
Thomaz Bellucci beat Jordan Thompson 6-2 6-3 6-2
Guido Pella beat Steve Darcis 2-6 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-1
Tim Smyczek beat Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-2
Tommy Robredo beat Malek Jaziri 7-5 3-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 8-6
Nicolas Mahut beat Marco Cecchinato 4-6 6-2 6-2 6-2
Simone Bolelli beat Brian Baker 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-3) 6-7 (2-7) 7-6 (7-5)
Radek Stepanek beat Tatsuma Ito 6-4 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-2
Lukas Rosol beat Taro Daniel 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 5-7 6-7 (5-7) 6-1
Lleyton Hewitt beat James Duckworth 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 6-4