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Nadal gets upset ax

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal lost to Fernando Verdasco in the first round of the Australian Open, an unprecedentedly early exit at Melbourne Park for the 14-time Grand Slam winner and a reversal of their epic, 5-hour, 14-minute semifinal here six years ago.

Fernando Verdasco rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win the last two sets, recovering a break in the fifth as well, and claim a 7-6 (6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2, only his third victory in 17 matches against his fellow Spanish lefthander.

Nadal won his only Australian title in 2009 after beating Verdasco in the semifinals. His only other first-round exit in a major was at Wimbledon in 2013.

Verdasco went for everything on his ground strokes, ripping 90 winners against only 37 for Nadal as he worked to the extremes to unsettle his former No. 1-ranked rival.

“To win against Rafa here coming from two sets down is unbelievable,” the 32-year-old, No. 45-ranked Verdasco said. “I think I played unbelievable.”

Seven-time major winner Venus Williams also went out in a first-round 6-4, 6-2 loss to Johanna Konta.

The upset results took some focus off the match-fixing allegations that have overshadowed the first two days of the season’s first major.

No. 2-ranked Andy Murray began his bid for a drought-breaking title at the Australian Open with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 win over Alexander Zverev, checked to see there were no urgent calls from home, and had to answer questions immediately about the reports.

“I just think that it should be tennis that does a better job of explaining  … (players) shouldn’t have to read it in the press,” Murray said. “You have to be proactive I think with things like this and go and speak to the players rather than them reading about it in the newspapers or listening to it on the TV or the radio.”

The BBC and Buzzfeed News published reports Monday alleging match-fixing had gone unchecked in tennis.

The reports alleged 16 players, all ranked in the top 50 at some stage and half of them playing at the Australian Open, had repeatedly raised suspicion because of their results and had been flagged with tennis authorities, but had not been sanctioned. No players were identified.

The governing bodies for tennis rejected the claims.