On the second day of the first grand slam of the year; the Australian Open 2016 has lost one of the crowd favourite. The 2009 champion Rafael Nadal was sent packing by fellow countryman Fernando Verdasco in a repeat of the memorable 5 hour 14 minute semifinal seven years ago on the Rod Laver Arena. Verdasco gained sweet revenge in the battle of Spanish left handers as he took the 4 hour 41 minute encounter 7-6(6), 4-6,3-6,7-6(4),6-2 on Tuesday.
It marked only the first time in 11 appearances at Melbourne that Nadal was beaten in the first round. Apart from his only triumph in 2009 (d. Federer), he had also finished runner-up in 2012 (lost to Djokovic) and 2014 ( lost to Wawrinka). The only other first round defeat at any grand slam tournament was against the Belgian Steve Darcis at Wimbledon 2013, but that year Nadal was coming off a win at Roland Garros ( d. Ferrer) and also later on went on to claim his second U.S. Open title in September 2013 ( d. Djokovic). It also deprives Nadal the chance to become the only man in Open Era to have registered two career grand slams.
There were no such surprises for the second seed and four time finalist Andy Murray of Scotland who made short work of the promising German teenager Alexander Zverev 6-1,6-2, 6-3, while the 2014 champion Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland advanced after the Russian Dmitry Tursunov retired after dropping the first two sets. The Spaniards David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez, Frenchman Gael Monfils, Canada’s Milos Raonic, Joao Souza of Portugal and the Americans John Isner and Steve Johnson all advanced without dropping a set.
In the opening match of the evening session, the local hero and former World number one Lleyton Hewitt, playing in his last tournament before retirement, made short work of fellow countryman James Duckworth 7-6(5),6-2,6-4. Joining him in round two is the top Australian Bernard Tomic, seeded 16th, who took four sets to topple the tall Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan. American Jack Sock, the Serb Victor Troicki and the Frenchman Jeremy Chardy toiled hard under the strong Melbourne sun before winning in five sets, with Chardy winning a marathon fifth set 13-11 against Ernests Gulbis – in a match lasting 4 hour 43 minutes.
The only seeds to fall apart from Nadal were the eleventh seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa who retired trailing 6-7(4), 7-6 (4), 3-6, 0-3 to the American Rajeev Ram. Fabio Fognini of Italy lost to the veteran left hander Giles Muller of Luxembourg, in four sets, with all four sets ending in a tie-break.
The following is the list of men’s singles matches in the top half of the men’s draw with my pick mentioned first:-
Novak Djokovic (1) v. Quentin Halys
Roger Federer (3) v. Alexander Dolgopolov
Kei Nishikori (7) v. Austin Krajicek
Tomas Berdych (6) v. Mirza Basic
Jo- Wilfred Tsonga (9) v. Omar Jasika
David Goffin (15) v. Damir Dzumhur
Nick Kyrgios (29) v. Pablo Cuevas
Marin Cilic (12) v. Albert Ramos-Vinolas
Giles Simon (14) v. Evgeny Donskoy
Andreas Seppi (28) v. Denis Kudla
Dominic Thiem (19) v. Nicolas Almagro
Grigor Dmitrov (27) v. Marco Trungelliti
Federico Delbonis v. Renzo Olivio
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (26) v. Daniel Brands
Roberto Bautista Agut (24) v. Dusan Lajovic
Pierre-Hugues Herbert v. Noah Rubin
In the ladies section of the draw there were two major casualties as the second seeded Simona Halep of Romania was routed by the little known Chinese Shuai Zheng 4-6,3-6 and seven time grand slam champion Venus Williams was beaten 4-6,2-6 by the top British woman Johanna Konta on Day 2. However the two time former champion Victoria Azarenka was in murderous mood as she double bageled Alison Van Uytvanck in just 52 minutes to wrap up the day’s proceedings.
Also winning on the Women’s side of the draw were Timea Bacsinsky, the 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, the American Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, the Russian Ekaterina Makarova, Sabine Lisicki of Germany, Spain’s third ranked Garbine Muguruza, Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina who advanced in straight sets.
The seventh seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany had to come from behind to beat Japan’s Misaki Doi 6-7(4),7-6(6),6-3. Halep’s compatriot Irina Camelia Begu too fell by the wayside to Sweden’s Johanna Larsson 3-6,2-6, while Caroline Garcia of France, the no. 32 seed was upset by Barbora Strycova of Czech Republic 2-6,4-6. Another lower seed Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine bowed out as the 31st seed was beaten by the American Varvara Lepchenko 7-6(5), 2-6,3-6.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]