Rafael Nadal
Spain's Rafael Nadal serves during a practice session at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 17, 2016. The Australian Open tennis tournament starts January 18. Reuters/Jason O'Brien TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Rafael Nadal admits he faces a “very tough” opponent in Spain’s Fernando Verdasco in the first round of the 2016 Australian Open at Melbourne Park.

“Not a lucky first round, I think, for me. For him either," Nadal, who is seeded fifth at the Australian Open, said, reports Yahoo Sports. “I need to be ready to play very good tennis if I want to be through."

Nadal still has clear memories of his epic Australian Open semifinal win against Verdasco in 2009, which lasted for five hours and 14 minutes. It was also Nadal’s first and only Aussie Open title, beating career rival Roger Federer in the final round of the tournament seven years ago.

The “King of Clay” leads Verdasco in their head-to-head matchups by 14-2. However, both Spaniards were 1-1 in 2015, with Verdasco winning at the ATP Miami in March, while Nadal emerged victorious at the Hamburg Open in July. The 14-time Grand Slam winner believes it would only be a “dangerous match” if he does not play his best against Verdasco, but his stats against lefties in the past two seasons suggests the Mallorcan should be careful.

According to ATP’s official website, Nadal has good reason to stay alert while with the 29-year-old leftie. In his last six hard court matches against left handers, Nadal lost five. Aside from Nadal’s loss against Verdasco in Miami, he was also defeated by Feliciano Lopez, Michael Berrer, and Martin Klizan - all three of whom are left-handed players.

“I have played a lot against lefties, so we’ll see,” Nadal said. “Here it’s not about playing against a lefty, it’s more about playing against a player who has a huge potential, and is able to reach a great level of tennis.”

If Nadal gets past his compatriot rival in the first round of the tournament, the Spaniard will likely face fourth seed Stan Wawrinka.