Nadal and Halep out on day of shocks in Melbourne

Tue Jan 19, 2016 10:07am EST
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By Nick Mulvenney

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The more familiar shock of falling seeds added to the ructions caused by allegations of tennis corruption as former champion Rafa Nadal and highly-fancied Simona Halep both departed in the first round of the Australian Open on Tuesday.

Nadal arrived at Melbourne Park with high hopes of arresting his recent grand slam decline only to depart, his optimism crushed, under a barrage of winners from fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.

Shortly after a dejected Nadal walked off court having tasted his first opening round loss at the Australian Open, women's second seed Halep bid farewell while another high-profile casualty was seven-times major champion Venus Williams.

Andy Murray, the men's second seed, and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka both impressed as the on-court action took centre stage after the allegations of matchfixing in the sport overshadowed Monday's programme.

Nadal appeared confused at how he had managed to blow a 2-0 lead in the final set to go down 7-6(6) 4-6 3-6 7-6(4) 6-2 to Verdasco in a four hour 41 minute battle that had echoes of their marathon 2009 semi-final but with a reversed result.

The fifth seed, who failed to win a grand slam title last year for the first time in a decade, lost the last six games as world number 45 Verdasco unleashed a series of explosive forehands to take his place in the second round.

"He was playing amazing in the last set. If you decide everything in one set, the opponent is ready to hit all the balls at hundred percent, then you are in trouble," the 2009 champion told reporters.

"The real thing is 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, and I didn't. I am sad for that."   Continued...

Spain's Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd as he leaves after losing his first round match against Spain's Fernando Verdasco at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 19, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter