Rafael Nadal falls in first round of 2016 Australian Open; is Spaniard still one of the elite players in the tour?

Rafael Nadal falls in first round of 2016 Australian Open; is Spaniard still one of the elite players in the tour?

With Rafael Nadal’s upset loss to compatriot Fernando Verdasco in the first round of the 2016 Australian Open, the Spanish pro has experienced something he has suffered just once before in a Grand Slam tournament; getting booted out very early in a tennis major.

The disappointing and embarrassing performance at the 2016 Australian Open puts to light multiple questions about Nadal; is he still a member of the sports’ elite athletes which include the likes of World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray? Or is Nadal already past his prime, considering his performances and results the last two seasons and in the first Grand Slam tournament of the new ATP season?

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Nadal, who also suffered a first round loss in the first round of the 2013 Wimbledon Championships to then World No. 135 Steve Darcis, was leading 2 sets to 1 against Verdasco before completely collapsing in the fourth and final sets.

Nadal lost to Darcis in straight sets, 6-7 (4) 6-7 (8) 4-6 three years ago and lost to Verdasco in five sets, 7-6 (6) 6-4 6-3 6-7 (4) 2-6 on Tuesday.

Nadal saw his rankings fall to World No. 10 from June to July of 2015 but recovered a bit in the latter part of the 2015 season to climb back to World No. 5. With his recent disappointing first round loss, Nadal is expected to drop in the world rankings after the computations of the new rankings after the 2016 Australian Open.

Meanwhile, Federer, Murray and Djokovic had no trouble in their first round match-ups with all three winning in three easy sets. Federer beat Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, 6-2 6-1 6-2 and Murray defeated Alexander Zverev of Germany, 6-1 6-2 6-3.

Djokovic, who is seeded first in this tournament and the favorite to win the Grand Slam title in Melbourne, beat Korean challenger Hyeon Chung in straights sets, 6-3 6-2 6-4.

Nadal admitted that he had mental struggles the past two seasons that has caused him to be off-form especially in the major tournaments. With the poor result in Australia, it appears Nadal has yet to get past his issues.

Photo courtesy: rafaelnadalfans.com