The opening day of the Australian Open saw home favourite Bernard Tomic fight back from two sets behind to oust Fernando Verdasco. The 22nd seeded Spaniard has struggled in recent years but came out of the blocks in stunning fashion to dominate the opening two sets.
The hard-hitting Verdasco gave his Australian opponent a lesson in aggressive base-line tennis to take the opening sets 6-4 and 7-6 before Tomic found his form in the third set. Verdasco has been plagued by his mental fragility during his slump in recent years but losing this match to the world number 38 has seen the former Melbourne semi-finalist fall to a new low.
Tomic fought his way back into contention with a strategy that saw him give off the impression of accepting his apparently immanent defeat.
“I eased off and seemed I didn’t care,” said Tomic. “I think that’s what drawed him a little bit tonight. He thought he was going to win that third set, and when the right time came, I broke him.”
“I knew if I lifted my game early, he would have lifted as well and he wouldn’t have let go,” continued the 19 year old. “I pretended a little bit in the first few games in that third set to not be there as mentally, but in a way to still be there.”
The tactic worked perfectly and with Verdasco wilting in the heat Tomic pounced and starting to win the rallies that in the opening sets his opponent had dominated. The match saw Tomic play his trademark slice shots on a consistent basis that in the past have made him such a frustrating opponent to play but while he managed to proceed to the second round there is still much for him to improve before his next match.
The leading men’s seeds playing on opening day were Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer and both players come through comfortably with the Swiss third seed keen to downplay any talk of a rift between him and Nadal.
“Things are fine between us,” Federer said. “I have no hard feelings. I’m completely cool and relaxed about it. We can’t always agree on everything.”
Federer was speaking following his 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Alexander Kudryavstev. Federer dominated on serve, winning 80% of his first serves, but with 33 unforced errors, most in the opening set, he is still rusty in the early stages of the season. He will face Andreas Beck in the next round. The German qualifier won in four sets against Eric Prodon.
Nadal was a very comfortable winner against Alex Kuznetsov and will play Tommy Hass in the next round.
The Spaniard has struggled with a shoulder injury over the last six months but when he came to the court with a heavily strapped right knee theMelbournecrowd took a collective breath as they awaited to see if Nadal’s knee problems from three years ago had returned. The combative Nadal revealed that he hurt it on Sunday after it locked up while sitting in a chair causing him tremendous discomfort.
After undergoing a series of tests the issue cleared up last night and once he came to the courts he moved with ease and showed his championship rivals that he is in great form and ready for another championship assault.
Ivan Ljubicic, the 28th seed, was knocked out by Lukas Lacko in five sets and the Slovakian qualifier was rewarded with a second round tie against Donald Young, another five set winner. Other seeds to lose on the opening day were Juan Monaco and Jurgen Melzer.
In the ladies draw three seeds, including 19th seed Flavia Pennetta, were knocked out. Early in her game it appeared that the eight seeded Agnieszka Radwanksa might have joined her on the sidelines after struggling in the opening set of her match against Behanie Mattek-Sands.
The American took the opening set after a marathon tiebreak and looked well placed to produce a shocking upset of Radwanksa, who could go to world number with a victory inMelbourne. The unseeded American had actually led the opening set 5-2 at one point and if she could have closed the opening set before the tie-break this match could have had a very different complexion as opposed to Radwanksa finding her form for the rest of the match.
The Pole struggled to deal with the Mattek-Sands drop shot in the early proceedings but with the American clearly sapped of energy in the final set the re was little doubt of the final outcome of the match with Radwanksa winning 6-7, 6-4, 6-2.
The opening match of the tournament saw Victoria Azarenka and Heather Watson take to the Rod Laver Arena in a match that had been expected to provide Azarenka with a serious test. The third seed however ran off a very comfortable winner after a clearly nervous Watson made a slew of errors and failed to provide a challenge to her opponent who ran out a very comfortable 6-1, 6-0 winner.