Israel’s world number 87 Dudi Sela succeeded where Rafael Nadal failed by subduing Spain’s Fernando Verdasco to reach the Australian Open third round on Thursday.
Verdasco, who stunned the 14-time Grand Slam champion in a five-set epic, won the opening set against the Israeli but faded to lose 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 6-7 (4).
The Spaniard looked fatigued from his exploits against Nadal while the diminutive Sela, cheered on by a flag-waving contingent of fans, struggled with nerves near the end. Verdasco’s cause was not helped by consecutive double-faults in the fourth set tiebreak, gifting Sela a 5-2 lead.
He managed to save a match point but Sela finished the job with a well-struck backhand return that Verdasco netted. Sela, 30, will now play Frenchman Jeremy Chardy or Russian Andrey Kuznetsov for a place in the fourth round of a Grand Slam for only the second time in his career.