By Niall Clarke
- Rafael Nadal suffers five set defeat to Fernando Verdasco
- Simona Halep loses in straight sets to Shuai Zhang
- Wawrinka, Ferrer and Muguruza score wins
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA- Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep were the main casualties in an upset filled day two of the Australian Open.
Nadal battled for four hours and 45 minutes with fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, but came out on the wrong end of the scoreboard. The former champion lost in five sets 7-6(6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-2.
Meanwhile in the women’s draw there was an even bigger upset as second seed Halep was unceremoniously dumped out by Shuai Zhang in straight sets. The world number 133 put on the performance of her life to run away a 6-4, 6-3 winner.
Sweet revenge for Verdasco against Nadal
Seven years removed since their epic semi final battle in the 2009 Australian Open, Verdasco and Nadal met again in the first round in 2016.
Both are seemingly past their best, but that did not stop them producing another match for the ages.
Verdasco took a tight first set on a tiebreaker 8-6, but in the second Nadal gained the advantage with an early break. Verdasco was able to break back but the world number five quickly re-established his advantage before serving out the set.
The momentum carried into set three with another early break for Nadal. This time he would not let his opponent back into the set. The former world number one wrapped it with another break to take the set 6-3.
The pair exchanged breaks in a tight fourth set that once again went to a tiebreak. Verdasco again took control in the breaker and levelled the scores at two sets a piece.
An unbelievable second set started with Nadal grabbing an early break and consolidating with a hold. That seemed to light a fire under Verdasco who started finding the court with his thumping forehand. The world number 45 won six straight games, finishing it off with another booming forehand winner to earn sweet revenge over Nadal.
Halep remains slam-less
For some reason, it just does not seem to happen for the world number two in grand slams. Dumped out early at Roland Garros and Wimbledon last year, and missing out on a golden chance at the US Open has now been followed with a first round exit in the Australian Open.
Her opponent, Zhang of China, played the match of her career to defeat the Romanian in straight sets- the biggest upset in the tournament so far.
It was a break-filled first set that saw five losses of serve, but the most important one went the way of the Chinese who broke for the first set 6-4. In the Second set, Halep appeared to be fighting back with a break of serve, but Zhang upped her game to break twice and take the match in straight sets.
That has left the bottom section wide open for a surprise semi finalist.
Seeds suffer in Melbourne
Nadal and Halep were not the only seeds to be ejected from the tournament. British number one Johanna Konta upset Venus Williams in straight sets in the same section as Halep. Lesia Tsurenko and Caroline Garcia were other seeded casualties.
In the men’s, Kevin Anderson was forced to retire against Rajeev Ram with injury. Fabio Fognini was also dumped out in four tiebreak sets by Gilles Muller.
No problems for Murray, Wawrinka, Muguruza , Ferrer and Azarenka.
The women’s number two had her problems, but there was no such issues for the men’s number two Andy Murray. The Brit defeated Alex Zverev comfortably in straight sets.
Stan Wawrinka only needed to play two sets in his victory over Dmitry Tursunov. The Russian retired two sets down to the Swiss fourth seed. David Ferrer was also victorious.
The highly anticipated round four collision between Garbine Muguruza and Victoria Azarenka is still on the cards after both players dispatched their first round opponents easily in straight sets.
In fact, Azarenka put on the most dominant performance of the tournament thus far with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Alison Van Uytvanck. Muguruza dropped only four games in a 6-0, 6-4 over Anett Kontaveit.
Lleyton Hewitt’s career has been extended by one match at least after a straight sets win over fellow Australian, James Duckworth.
The Australian Open continues at 11AM local time (0:00 GMT) Wednesday.
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