The great tennis legend Rafa Nadal is still just 30 years old, a fact too often obscured by his massive stature in the game, his extraordinary accomplishments, and the volume of injury-induced chatter about his imminent sunset. Nadal was just dispatched from the Australian Open in the first round. The loss is a huge disappointment to Nadal’s fans — and tennis fans worldwide — who had been expecting great action from his side of the Australian draw where Nadal, currently ranked No. 5 in the world, would have faced Andy Murray. (And because Nadal seemed to be rising above his injuries as last year ended.)
But it is Fernando Verdasco who advances, avenging an Australian semifinal loss to his friend Nadal seven years ago. That match was a grueling five-setter and so was this: 7-6 (6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2. Verdaso is a 32-year-old Spaniard who plays left-handed with a two-handed backhand. It’s a familiar style to fans who have watched so much Nadal, but it’s not something Nadal himself faces very often. Now it’s Verdasco who will face Murray (if both get through). Murray beat Verdasco in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2013.