After ending 2015 with such optimism and beginning 2016 with a final appearance, Rafael Nadal would have hoped to find his Grand Slam mojo again going into the 2016 Australian Open in Melbourne.
However, all those early 2015 failings came back in a hurry, after the Spaniard, tipped to make it to the semifinals at least this year, crashed out in the opening round of the Australian Open for the first time in his career.
Fernando Verdasco was the man to end Nadal's run in a hurry, with the Spaniard beating his compatriot 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 in a marathon four hours and 41 minutes.
Those tie-breakers were the ones that cost Nadal in the end, with the former world number one, unable to produce the big points when necessary, something you would have never thrown at him a couple of years back.
It looked a little dangerous for Nadal after he lost the first set on the tie-break to Verdasco, but the 14-time Grand Slam champion did pretty well to bounce back.
And after winning the next two sets to jump 2-1 up in the match, smart money would have been on Nadal to ease through in four sets, but the left-hander showed his newly-found unfortunate-quality to lose his nerve – much like he did in the US Open last year to Fabio Fognini, who lost to Gilles Muller in the first round in Melbourne – allowing Verdasco back into the match.
With another tie-break locked in and with the match heading into the four-hour mark, Verdasco, who had 90 winners to his opponent's 37, went from strength to strength in the Melbourne heat as Nadal wilted, with the final set a comfortable outing for Verdasco.
Where now, will be the question for Nadal, after another underwhelming performance in a Grand Slam. The Spaniard will hope to fare better in the French Open, where he finally relinquished his hold on the title last year, but, going by this performance, there is a lot of work to be done over the next few months.
In other men's singles matches, Andy Murray avoided a potential upset, easing past highly-rated teenager Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. David Ferrer and Milos Raonic also did not waste too much time out on court, in their straight-set wins over Peter Gojowczyk and Lucas Pouille respectively. The always-entertaining Gael Monfils also booked a second round place after dispatching Yuichi Sugita 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.
In the women's draw, Venus Williams, seeded eighth, made a first round exit, going down to Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-2, while the No.2 seed Simona Halep will also take an early flight home following a 6-4, 6-3 defeat to Shuai Zhang. Wimbledon 2015 finalist Garbine Muguruza, though, had no such trouble, cruising past Anett Kontaveit 6-0, 6-4, with No.20 seed Ana Ivanovic also entering the second round after a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Australian Tammi Patterson.