The tennis gods have not been kind to Spain’s Fernando Verdasco at the Australian Open in recent years.
Last year he drew Bernard Tomic in the opening round, and the No. 22 seed lost to the Australian teen after leading two sets to love.
This year he got another tough draw, having to face up-and-coming Belgian David Goffin, a 22-year-old who has charged 125 spots up the rankings in the past 12 months.
Goffin, who was making his Australian Open main draw debut, made his breakthrough at the 2012 French Open where he made the fourth round as a lucky loser. He also made the third round at Wimbledon, beating Tomic in the first round.
The experienced Verdasco, again the No. 22 seed in 2013, took the early lead in the match on Hisense Arena, breaking in the fourth game of the first set and wrapped it up 6-3 in 35 minutes.
Verdasco, competing in his 10th straight Australian Open, was aiming to emulate his semi-final run from Australian Open 2009 where he pushed eventual champion Rafael Nadal to five sets.
Goffin had other ideas though, stepping up his game to take the second set 6-3 and level the match at one-set all.
Verdasco, who teamed with Anabel Medina Garrigues to win the Hopman Cup earlier this month, got an early break in the third set but again Goffin found a way back into the match, with the world No. 49 taking the set 6-4.
Staring down the barrel of a second consecutive first round exit at the Australian Open, things clearly were not going to plan for Verdasco when was broken in the opening game of the fourth set, but the Spaniard kept fighting and won five straight games to take control. He served it out 6-3, levelling the match and pushing it into a decider.
Goffin was not done yet, opening the final set with an ace, but it was Verdasco who struck first, with his powerful shot-making helping him to break in the third game. Games continued on serve with Verdasco serving it out 6-4, clinching the win with an unreturnable serve down the middle.
“You always want to win in three sets, but it’s not always that easy when you play against the best players in the world,” Verdasco said.
“(Goffin) is an unbelievably talented player and made it hard for me today.”
Verdasco hit 45 winners in the three hour, 22 minute match, earning a second round clash with Belgian Xavier Malisse, who defeated Spanish player Pablo Andujar in straight sets earlier on Monday.
“I just hope (Malisse) will not run as much as Goffin today, he was so fast and recovering many balls,” Verdasco said.