Rafael Nadal suffered the only first-round exit of his career at the Australian Open after Fernando Verdasco recorded a stunning five-set win.
The Spanish left-handers produced an exhibition of hard-hitting to thrill those inside the Rod Laver Arena over four hours and 40 minutes.
Verdasco – beaten by Nadal in the semi-finals in 2009 – showed grit to stay in touch when his compatriot threatened to dominate by saving a break point to prevent going 3-0 down in the decider before winning the tie 7-6 4-6 3-6 7-6 6-2.
His display throughout thrilled spectators and his momentum in the deciding set saw him win six-straight games to shock the fifth seed, who managed 37 winners in comparison.
The world number 45 hit 90 winners and meets Israel’s Dudi Sela in round two.
Meanwhile, Verdasco’s quarter of the draw produced some drama on day two imcluding a four hour and 43 minute match on court 19 as Jeremy Chardy beat Ernests Gulbis 13-11 in a deciding fifth set.
Frenchman Chardy – seeded 30, could now meet Verdasco in round three.
Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka, is in the same quarter of the draw but he will not have to worry about an early meeting with big-serving South African Kevin Anderson after the 29-year-old – who knocked Andy Murray out of last year’s US Open – trailed American Rajeev Ram before retiring hurt in the fourth set.
Wawrinka – who plays Dmitry Tursunov later – could meet Murray at the semi-final stage if the draw goes according to seeding.