The decline of Rafael Nadal continues.

The 14-time Grand Slam winner hasn't made it past the quarterfinals in his last seven grand slam tournaments, and he has now been bundled out in the first round of the Australian Open.

Nadal was beaten 7-6, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2 by fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco - just the second time he has fallen in the first round of a major tournament.

The first was at Wimbledon in 2013, where he lost in straight sets to Steve Darcis.

Advertisement

Early losses now aren't as stunning for the fifth-seeded Nadal, who exited in the second round in last year's Wimbledon and the third round at the US Open.

The game reversed an epic 5-hour, 14-minute semifinal Nadal and Verdasco played in 2009 at Melbourne Park, which Nadal won in five sets and went on to take the title.

Verdasco clinched the fourth-set tiebreaker with an ace to send it to a fifth and deciding set, then after an exchange of breaks went ahead with a decisive break in the sixth game and held in the next to go up 5-2. He won the match in 4 hours, 41 minutes, on a service return winner.

Coming into the match, Nadal had won 14 of 16 previous meetings between the pair.

Verdasco now plays Israel's Dudi Sela in the next round, with the draw opening up possibilities for deep runs for the likes of Jeremy Chardy and the inconsistent Gael Monfils.

- With AP

ROTORUA DAILY POST
19 Jan, 2016 4:50am
2 minutes to read