Rafael Nadal, Venus Williams, Simona Halep Out at Australian Open

The Associated Press

Unseeded players caused a wave on day one, but it is nothing compared to the storm that hit the Australian Open on day two.

No. 8 Venus Williams and No. 2 Simona Halep crashed out while Fernando Verdasco defeated No. 5 Rafael Nadal in five sets.

The two Spaniards met in the semifinals here in 2009. This time around Verdasco dominated with 90 winners compared to Nadal’s 37.

Nadal and Verdasco fought tough and hard in the first set, with each player preserving their serves to force a tiebreak. But Nadal committed a fatal double fault when it was 6-6 to give Verdasco the 7-6 lead. He then swooped it and scored the point to take the set.

Nadal won the second and third set, but the victories did not come easy despite the 6-4, 6-3 score. Verdasco allowed Nadal to remain in the game due to his numerous unforced errors. He looked more at ease in the third set, but Verdasco was not ready to leave.

The men played the fourth set similar to the first set, but Nadal wore down towards the end. Verdasco won the tiebreak 7-4. It zapped all energy from Nadal.

Verdasco broke Nadal three times and scored three aces to take the match from his countryman.

“It’s tough, but at the same time, I know I did everything that I can to be ready for it,” stated Nadal after the match. “Was not my day. Let’s keep going. That’s the only thing. There is no more thing to do than keep practising hard, keep practising the same way that I was doing the last four, five months.”

It is only the second time in Nadal’s career that he has exited the first round in a Grand Slam.

Qualifier Shuai Zhang easily defeated Halep in only 78 minutes with 31 winners. Zhang immediately let the world know she was in charge when she stormed to a 3-0 lead in the first set. Halep showed some life, but Zhang broke her to take the set. The boost appeared to put some life in Halep, who enjoyed a 3-1 start to the second set, but Zhang never gave up.

“I think it wasn’t my good day but I give her a lot of credit as she played without fear and hit every ball,” explained Halep. “She beat me. It’s tough but it’s only one day, only one match and I have many matches ahead of me. I didn’t have any pain today. I’m still thinking about the Achilles injury … [but] I did everything I could today. Everyone can lose, everyone can win.”

After an amazing 2015, Venus Williams entered the 2016 season with high hopes. But Johanna Konta never allowed Williams into the match, easily beating the veteran in 79 minutes. Konta broke Williams’s serve five times and forced her to run from corner to corner. She went up 5-2 in the first set, but Williams managed to break her to force another game. Konta regained her composure and secured the set 6-4.

It took all the energy from Williams, who could not handle her serve in the second set. Konta broke her three times and finished the set in 38 minutes to move to the second round.


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