Rafael Nadal was left shaking his head on Tuesday at the Australian Open after he suffered just his second first-round exit at a Grand Slam championship.
The 2009 champion and fifth seed insisted he felt competitive during his five-set loss to fellow Spaniard and left-hander Fernando Verdasco, but could not explain how he had failed to convert practice court form into a match situation.
“The match is a tough one to lose for me obviously,” said Nadal. “It’s not like last year, when I arrived here playing bad and not feeling ready for it. This year was a completely different story. I have been playing and practising great and working so much. It is tough when you work so much and arrived at a very important event and you’re going out too early.
“I know I did everything that I could to be ready for it. It was not my day. There is no more things to do other than keep practising hard and keep practising the same way that I have been doing for the past four, five months.”
Nadal led 2-0 in the fifth set, but Verdasco reeled off six games for a 7-6(6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 in four hours and 41 minutes.
“In terms of being competitive, I was competitive,” said Nadal, who is now 14-3 lifetime against Verdasco. “In terms of creating damage to the opponent with my forehand, I didn’t. So I was hitting forehands, and he was able to keep hitting winners. [It] cannot happen when I am hitting my forehand… That was the biggest issue for me today.
“I was not enough aggressive with my forehand during the whole match. I didn’t feel it. I tried. I fought. I was ready to do it, [but] I didn’t… [But] I don’t know [one] hundred per cent the reason, to be honest.”
The only other time that Nadal had lost in the first round of a Grand Slam champion was at Wimbledon 2013, when he lost to Belgium’s Steve Darcis.

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