by Kevin Craig
Fernando Verdasco stunned the tennis world on Tuesday in Melbourne when he defeated Rafael Nadal in an epic five setter, 7-6, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2.
After a tight first set in which Verdasco was simply the better player, Nadal seemed to relax and take things under his control, winning the second and third sets with a break advantage. It was the fourth set, though, when Verdasco began to really assert his presence again, forcing the set into a tiebreak and winning it.
Despite winning the fourth set, the momentum did not immediately shift in Verdasco’s favor, as Nadal was able to break and take a 2-0 lead early in the fifth set. Nadal then saw another break point as Verdasco was serving at 0-2, but Verdasco managed to fire four aces in the game and hold, making that the first of six consecutive games he would win to close out the match.
The final game of the match was essentially a microcosm of the entire match. As Nadal was serving at 2-5, he got up 30-0, but Verdasco turned the game around by hitting four consecutive winners, allowing him to break and win the match.
Verdasco used his big-hitting style of play to simply overpower Nadal, managing to hit 90 winners past the nine-time French Open champion. The forehand alone for Verdasco was able to hit 41 winners, while he hit 20 aces and 10 return winners, allowing him to keep the points short.
Many tennis fans were excited for this match before it even began as it was a rematch of the extraordinary semifinal played between the two men at the 2009 Australian Open in which Nadal won in five sets after a grueling five hour battle. The two Spanish warriors did not disappoint this time either, as Verdasco was able to unexpectedly turn the tables in his favor, toughing out Nadal in five more grueling sets that lasted just under five hours.
After dropping his first 13 meetings with Nadal, Verdasco has now been able to win three of the last four, including at the Miami Open last year. Verdasco has a favorable draw in the second round to back up this result, as he plays 87th ranked Dudi Sela.