After 4 hours and 41 minutes, Fernando Verdasco trumped Nadal 7-6 (6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 to hand the fifth-seeded Spaniard his first Australian Open first-round exit and just his second first-round loss in a major. Nadal is 29, just a year older than Novak Djokovic and five years younger than Roger Federer. But he has had knee issues and his career has been in decline. Last year, he lost at the French Open for the first time since 2009, and did not win any majors (or reach a final, either) for the first time in 11 years. He also won the fewest tournaments (three) since 2004. At one point, his ranking slid to No. 10.
He improved at the end of the year and opened this season by losing to Djokovic in the Qatar Open final. That was Nadal's fifth consecutive loss against the current world No. 1 and the ninth in their past 10 meetings after having beaten Djokovic in 22 of their previous 37 matches. Nadal also has lost his dominance against Verdasco. He beat the fellow left-handed Spaniard the first 13 times they played, but Verdasco has won three of their past four meetings.