Rafael Nadal has crashed out of the Australian Open after a first-round defeat to Fernando Verdasco in Melbourne.
The 14-time Grand Slam winner was beaten in the opening stage of the tournament for the first time after slumping 7-6 (8/6) 4-6 3-6 7-6 (7/4) 6-2 to his fellow Spaniard.
Verdasco, he now meets Israel’s Dudi Sela after hitting 90 winners and winning six straight games to clinch victory over fifth seed Nadal.
“I played unbelievably in the fifth set,” said Verdasco, 32. “I don’t know how I did it. I closed my eyes and everything went in.”
Verdasco, beaten by Nadal in the semi-finals in 2009, showed grit to stay in touch when his compatriot threatened to dominate.
After surrendering a 5-2 lead in the fourth set, he dug deep to win the tie-break and take the match the distance.
At 2-2 in the decider, a glorious forehand – packed with the type of power he had showed throughout the contest – put Verdasco ahead and the would number 45 never looked back.
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