Fernando Verdasco sent shockwaves through the Australian Open on Tuesday by defeating Rafa Nadal 7-6(6) 4-6 3-6 7-6(4) 6-2 to send the former world number one crashing out in the opening round.
The first-round exit was the 2009 champion’s first at Melbourne Park and only his second at such an early stage in a grand slam.
Down 2-0 in the final set, world number 45 Verdasco dragged himself off the canvas with a barrage of booming forehand winners, breaking Nadal twice to move to the brink of victory.
He then broke his compatriot a third time, sealing the four hour and 41-minute classic with a cross-court winner that left the Rod Laver Arena crowd stunned late in the day session.
Williams’ dreams shattered
Venus Williams dreams of winning a first Australian Open title at the age of 35 were shattered on Tuesday when she was beaten 6-4 6-2 in the first round by British number one Johanna Konta.
The seven-times grand slam champion was named WTA comeback player of the year in 2015 when she won three titles to move back into the top 10 in the rankings but her hopes of going one better than her final appearance in 2003 were soon dashed.
The eighth seeded American struggled to get a foothold in the match against her Australia-born opponent in the heat of Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday, however, and crashed out in 79 minutes.
Williams showed glimpses of her best tennis to rally from 5-0 to 5-2 in the second set but it only delayed the inevitable and 24-year-old Konta secured the upset when the former world number one netted a return.
Halep sent packing by qualifier
Second seed Simona Halep continued a day of shocks at the Australian Open on Tuesday when she was knocked out in the first round by Zhang Shuai, going down 6-4 6-3 to the inspired Chinese qualifier.
Halep’s stunning defeat by a woman 131 spots below her in the world rankings came after eighth seed Venus Williams and men’s fifth seed Rafa Nadal had been sent packing on day two of the tournament.
The 24-year-old, who came to Melbourne nursing an Achilles injury and suffering from a cold, was on the back foot from the start as Zhang raced into a 3-0 lead in the opening set on Margaret Court Arena.
The Romanian, who won the only previous meeting between the pair 6-1 6-1 in 2012, rallied to get back to 5-4 but Zhang broke her serve to go one set up.
Halep took a 3-1 lead in the second set before Zhang stormed back and sealed victory when Halep failed to get her forehand return back after 78 minutes.
French Open champion Stan Wawrinka shook off a stubborn early challenge from Dmitry Tursunov to advance to the second round of the Australian Open when his Russian opponent retired injured.
Wawrinka was leading 7-6(2) 6-3 when Tursunov, who had called the trainer midway through the second set to treat an apparent hip problem, indicated to the umpire he was unable to continue any further.
Tursunov, playing his first grand slam main draw match since the 2014 U.S. Open after battling a succession of foot injuries, had an opportunity to snatch the first set before the Swiss forced a tiebreak, that he won easily 7-2.
The 2014 Melbourne Park champion then pulled away to a 3-0 lead in the second set before Tursunov sought treatment on his painful hip and when the fourth-seeded Wawrinka sealed the second set, the Russian retired.