MELBOURNE, Australia ( Associated Press) — Rafael Nadal appeared in no real danger of becoming the first Australian Open defending champion to lose in the first round since current coach Carlos Moya beat Boris Becker a quarter century ago.
Still, it wasn’t a great match for Nadal, who entered the southpaw matchup against 21-year-old Jack Draper in 2023 with an 0-2 record and six losses in their last seven meetings. After nearly two hours of erratic play, Nadal found himself tied at one set each.
On an afternoon when the temperature was hovering around 30 °C (85 Fahrenheit), she seemed to take advantage of her opponent’s cramps when Draper suddenly went ahead on a break in the fourth set. From there, Nadal did not miss a game and began his campaign to extend his record 23 Grand Slam titles with a 7–5, 2–6, 6–4, 6–1 victory, which included Took more than three hours. at Rod Laver Arena.
“I needed a win. That’s the main thing,” said Nadal. “It doesn’t matter in what way.
Nadal was not at his peak. In general it was a tough game. However, he tried to look on the bright side by considering his baggage, including two abdominal muscle tears over the past six months.
“If we put into perspective everything I’ve experienced in the last six months, I think it’s a positive start,” said the 36-year-old Spaniard.
Top-seeded Nadal is playing his 67th Grand Slam tournament in Melbourne as world number one Carlos Alcaraz pulled out due to injury. Draper, who started the week with a career-high ranking of 38th, has just appeared in his fourth major and his best result was a third-round finish at the US Open last September.
Draper also faced the heat. In his ATP tour debut at the Miami Open in March 2021, Britton fainted on court and resigned after a set.
It was an honor to play against him. I grew up having him as an idol. To face him on a track is something special,” Draper said. I’m close as far as my tennis is concerned. Physically, I’m the first one to say I need more work.”
Nadal mowed Draper down the track, with long rallies that he defined with his rights.
Nadal said, ‘When you win the match, you are more relaxed. “You have more confidence.”
His next opponent would be Mackie McDonald, a former college champion at UCLA, who won 7–6 (5), 7–6 (1), 1–6, 6–7 (10), 6–4 in an all-American game. won from against Brandon Nakashima, which lasted four hours.
In the women’s draw, top seed Inga Swiatek chased Nadal for much of the night’s session and found herself in a tight spot before rallying to edge out 69th-ranked Jules Niemeyer 6-4, 7-5.
American Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff and Danielle Collins, 2022 finalists in Melbourne, also advanced to the round with straight sets victories. Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, Emma Raducanu, the 2021 US Open champion and sixth seed Maria Sakkari also advanced. Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka defeated 2020 winner Sofia Kenin 6-4, 7-6(3).
Third seed Pegula beat Romania’s Jacqueline Cristian 6-0, 6-1, while seventh seed Gauff beat Katerina Siniakova 6-1, 6-4.
Both players can clash in the semi-finals.
The biggest surprise of the day was the return of Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios, who will need surgery on his left knee.
“I’m devastated,” said the 27-year-old Australian, who captured last year’s men’s doubles title at Melbourne Park.
Other men who advanced to the round included the third seed, Stefanos Tsitsipas; 10. Hubert Hurkaj, seeded 10th; 16th, Frances Tiafoe, and 20th, Denis Shapovalov.
Daniil Medvedev, the 2021 US Open champion and finalist in Melbourne in the last two years, defeated American Marcos Giron 6-0, 6-1, 6-2 on the night.