Their most recent meeting on the hallowed grass courts of Wimbledon in 2012 went the distance to a deciding fifth.
However, for Australian Open 22nd seed Fernando Verdasco, there was no such rollercoaster ride this time around. The Spaniard was close to his clinical best in disposing of veteran Xavier Malisse in straight sets, 6-1 6-3 6-2 on Wednesday night.
While Malisse, the former world No. 19, struck the occasional running forehand or flying backhand winner to thrill the packed Margaret Court Arena, it was business as usual for Verdasco.
His clay-court-honed heavy groundstrokes simply proved overwhelming for the 32-year-year Belgian.
“I think the key was the consistency of every point ... in general it was a great match, much better than the first round. Right now I just need to relax and then get back out on the court for doubles tomorrow,” Verdasco said.
For two players moving closer towards ‘elder statesmen’ year on the ATP tour, Wednesday night’s clash somewhat surprisingly marked just the fourth time the pair had met. But despite Malisse tasting success in that third round Wimbledon encounter last year, Verdasco looked far more at home on the plexi-cushion of Melbourne Park.
“Grass is a surface that doesn’t let me use my spin on my forehand. It’s more difficult to hit winners (than on hardcourts),” he said.
He certainly didn’t have any problems in that regard on Wednesday, cracking 31 winners in total, including 20 from the forehand side alone. It was shot-making that Verdasco’s absent 11-time Grand Slam winning compatriot Rafael Nadal would have been proud to call his own.
After breezing through the first set, Verdasco exchanged breaks of serve with Malisse at the beginning of the second before his renowned forehand – in the shape of a full stretch crosscourt passing shot – gave him the crucial break and a 5-3 advantage.
He went on to serve it out and take a two set lead.
The 29-year-old continued the theme with a double break in the third before finishing in style with an overhead smash.
For Verdasco, Australian Open 2013 represents the chance to atone for last year’s first round defeat to Australia’s Bernard Tomic. His campaign will continue against big-serving South African Kevin Anderson, who defeated Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov in three sets earlier today.