“Everyone knows the way to beat Nadal,” Briggs wrote.
“Unless you are Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray, two of the few players who could potentially outrally him, you just have to think big and hit big — the model established by Lukas Rosol in his shock Wimbledon win of 2012.
“You can see why opponents would now look at a match against Nadal as an opportunity rather than a death sentence.”
New York Times’ Christopher Clarey agreed, saying the manner of Verdasco’s victory ”is only going to encourage Nadal’s future opponents to take more risks under pressure.”
Peter Bodo, writing for ESPN, pointed out a technical decline in Nadal which meant he had lost his ability to “swarm and overwhelm opponents.”
“Nadal appears to have a compound problem,” Bodo said.
“He has squandered a significant amount of his once-immense mystique and, for complex reasons, his forehand is no longer the weapon it once was.
“In fairness, he can still lay the hammer down on most ATP players. But the elite competitors and the shot-makers who get on a roll, as Verdasco did Tuesday, have become a problem.”
Merlisa Lawrence Corbett, writing for Bleacher Report, said the performance raised serious questions about Nadal’s ability to ever contend for a grand slam title again.
“Once a fixture in the semi-finals and finals at Grand Slams, Nadal is trending down, and out,” Corbett wrote.
“(He) looked limited. His grunts sounded like vintage Nadal. His movement along the baseline seemed like vintage Nadal.
“But his weapons have diminished. He was giving all he had. It’s just no longer enough.”
Nick McCarvel, writing for USA Today, said Nadal had been “pedestrian at best” in the last three majors.
“He lost in the second round at Wimbledon (to qualifier Dustin Brown); the third round of the U.S. Open (to Italian Fabio Fognini); and here to Verdasco, who he held a 14-2 record against prior, including a five-set classic win in the 2009 semi-finals here,” McCarvey wrote.
“As Novak Djokovic continues to distance himself from the rest of the field in men’s tennis, the belief factor against Nadal seems to be growing.”
Many were not willing to write 14-times major winner off just yet, saying the clay court season — where he’ll chase an astounding 10th French Open title — would provide a better indication of where he’s at.
Nadal’s former Davis Cup captain Alex Corretja is convinced the Spanish great can still win another slam.
“He’s been there, he’s won so many and, yeah, he lost first round, but I really believe it’s not so easy to beat Rafa in the best of five ... and it might be different when he is able to get two or three matches under his belt,” Corretja told the BBC.
“I think he’s been a little bit unlucky with the draws. Usually we shouldn’t say that with Rafa, but I think with the momentum he needs, he’s been suffering tough losses because of that.”: