Rafael Nadal rues painful Australian Open exit
Ousted fifth seed Rafael Nadal bemoaned his surprise exit from the Australian Open on Tuesday as the fit-again Spaniard believed he was ready to make an impact at Melbourne Park.
Nadal came unstuck against countryman Fernando Verdasco in the first round, losing a marathon five-setter 7-6 (8-6) 4-6 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.
The 2009 Australian Open champion, who failed to make it past the opening round of the grand slam for the first time in his career, arrived in Melbourne in good form after making the final in Doha earlier this month.
Nadal’s preparation was in stark contrast to last year, when he suffered a swift first-round exit in his only lead-up tournament to the Australian Open, so the Spaniard was stunned to bow out so early following a grueling battle on Rod Laver Arena.
“The match is a tough loss for me obviously. It is tough especially because it is not like last year that I arrived here playing bad and feeling myself not ready for it,” Nadal told reporters.
“This year was a completely different story. I have been playing and practicing great and working so much. You know, it’s tough when you work so much and arrive at a very important event and you’re going out too early.
“It is tough, but at the same time, I know I did everything that I can to be ready for it. It was not my day. Let’s keep going. That’s the only thing.
“There are no more things to do other than to keep practicing hard, keep practicing the same way that I was doing the last four, five months.
“Today I was not ready to compete the way that I was practicing, so I’m not happy with that. That’s it. I hope the next time I can compete better than what I did today, because I was playing good.”
Nadal was up an early break for a 2-0 lead in the fifth and deciding set, but the 14-time grand slam winner was no match for Verdasco, who tallied 90 winners compared to just 37 from his compatriot.
“He [Verdasco] was playing amazing in the last set. If you decide everything in one set, the opponent is ready to hit all the balls at 100 per cent, then you are in trouble,” Nadal added.
“He had a lot of success hitting all the balls full power in the fifth. I have to congratulate him.
“But I am not happy about the way that I played the first. In the fourth I was not very bad, but he played better than me, too. I had my chances in the fourth, too, with that 0-30 that he played well. That’s it.
“He played better than me. He played more aggressive than me. He took more risks than me, and he won. Probably he deserved it.”