Australian Open 2016: Rafael Nadal says re-match with Fernando Verdasco is unlucky for both men

Bad luck is relative.

For Rafael Nadal, drawing Fernando Verdasco in the first round of the Australian Open wasn't ideal. After all, it took Nadal five hours and 14 minutes to win his sole previous Melbourne Park meeting against fellow Spaniard Verdasco, a five-set Friday night cliffhanger in the 2009 semi-final.

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But then again, he could be World No.47 Verdasco and have just drawn a 14-time Grand Slam singles title winner.

Speaking ahead of their clash on Tuesday, Nadal said he was bracing himself for a difficult encounter. "Yes, very tough first round. Not a lucky first round, I think, for me. For him either. Will be a tough match. I need to be ready to play a very good tennis if I want to be through," Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal speaks ahead of the Australian Open.
Rafael Nadal speaks ahead of the Australian Open. Photo: AP

That 2009 match is one of seven times Nadal has faced his 32-year-old compatriot, with the fifth seed having won five of those clashes.

Reminiscing about that night six years ago, Nadal noted that it precipitated what remains his only title at Melbourne Park. He said the epic semi-final remained "an unforgettable memory".


"I think was a huge level of tennis there. Some spectacular points. A lot of people always talk me about that match, no? I enjoyed that match. Was tough one. Was a great experience."

Like Nadal, Verdasco is a left-hander, although Nadal didn't think that was a major issue. "I played a lot of times with lefties. We'll see, no? Is not about playing against a lefty, is about playing against a player that has a huge potential, is able to reach a great level of tennis. If you are not playing your best, is very, very dangerous match."

The year 2015 was the first time in more than a decade that Nadal, 29, went through a calendar year without a Grand Slam title. He thought his chances of ensuring it didn't become a trend were dependent on the fitness of World No.1 Novak Djokovic, who has largely managed to steer clear of enforced lay-offs, a far cry from the the oft-injured Nadal. "He never has injuries, so that helps a lot to have full confidence on yourself, and to don't lose the rhythm never. When you are in the top, you have injuries, is tougher to recover that confidence and that level of tennis.

"So going to be decisive if he keep going that way with no injuries, that he has the chance to practice and play as much as he can, that matches he wons. That's something great for him, very positive thing. And then I hope to be there fighting to be closer to him. I am sure that the rest of the players wants the same than me."

Second-seed Andy Murray said he had been looking closely at Djokovic's game in order to try and dethrone the only player ranked above him. "Yeah, I think, you know, that's always really the case in off-season. This off-season, yeah, maybe a little bit more."

Murray is in the same half of the draw as Nadal, and takes on 198cm German teenager Alexander Zverev in the first round. The Scot beat Zverev in straight sets in their meeting at the Hopman Cup earlier this month, but Murray said he was nevertheless impressed by the World No.83. "He's a big guy obviously for his age. Of the young guys coming through, by far the tallest of them, which has obvious benefits. At the age he's at just now can cause a few issues, as well, until you kind of fill out into your physique."