MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal never truly seemed at risk being the very first Australian Open defending men’s champion to lose the opening round since his Coach, Carlos Moya, managed to defeat Boris Becker a quarter of century in the past.
But, it was an outstanding performance from Nadal the player who went into the match in the 21st year of Jack Draper with an 0-2 record in 2023, and six losses in his last seven games in total. After two hours of play that was not great, Nadal found himself even in a set.
Nadal seemed to be slipping away by profiting from his opponent’s cramps in the afternoon, with temperatures of around 85 degrees, but suddenly Draper increased his lead after one break during the 4th set. After that, however, Nadal would not drop any more games, and began his bid to win a record-breaking 22nd Grand Slam championship with a 7-5 2-6, 6-4 6-1 win that took longer than three and a half hours at Rod Laver Arena.
“I need a victory, so that’s the main thing,” Nadal stated. “Doesn’t matter the way.”
It’s a good thing, since the 36-year-old from Spain wasn’t in peak performance. In the end it was an uphill battle. He attempted to put a smile on the matter, but considering his performance and knowing that he had torn the abdominal muscles twice within the last six months.
“I was humble enough to accept that [there were] going to be a little bit of ups and downs during the match,” Nadal stated. “[That’s a] typical thing when you are not in a winning mood.”
Both are left-handed However, that’s almost what the similarities stop in terms of style , their age, experience, or even achievements.
Nadal Nadal, who is seeded as No. 1 due to the fact that No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz is sidelined with an injury, is playing at his 67th Grand Slam tournament. Draper was ranked at a career-high number. 38 in the week that he was playing, made his fourth appearance at an event major. His most impressive performance was reaching the third round of the US Open last September.
Draper has also had issues in hot conditions when he played in the course of his ATP Tour debut at the Miami Open in March 2021 Draper collapsed on the court and was forced to be taken off after just one set.
The symptoms of trouble appeared quickly and Draper was monitored by a trainer during switchovers. Then Draper applied a massage to his right thigh in between the points.
Nadal unsurprisingly did not disappoint. He wore Draper down to the baseline playing exchanges, before finding an opportunity to take a large forehand in this or that direction.
“Last year was, absolutely an extremely intense tournaments in my professional tennis. It’s not a secret”, said Nadal who battled to a reversal after a set deficit in the final against Daniil Medvedev during the championship to take home the title. “But unfortunately it’s not the case anymore and we have to work hard.”
His next opponent is Mackie McDonald, a past NCAA champion at UCLA who took home an all-American contest with Brandon Nakashima that lasted four hours with 7-6 (5) 7-6 (1) 1-1 7, 6-7 (10) 4-4 score.
Other results on Tuesday, American Frances Tiafoe, placed 16th in the draw, defeated German Daniel Altmaier 6-3, 6-3 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6) to advance to the Australian Open second round for the fifth time in his career.
Americans Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff and Danielle Collins, the 2022 third-place finisher in the 2022 final at Melbourne Park, all reached the second round of the women’s draw with victories on Monday. Other women who made it through included the 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu and 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu and sixth seeded Maria Sakkari, while two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka defeated 2020 champion Sofia Kenin 6-4, 7-6 (3).
The biggest shock of the day was the deportation from Wimbledon Finalist Nick Kyrgios, who needs surgery on his left knee.
“I’m devastated, obviously,” Kyrgios told reporters. Kyrgios 27, a 27-year-old player from Australia who took home the men’s doubles title held at Melbourne Park a year ago.
The No. 3 seeded Pegula defeated Jaqueline Cristian from Romania 6-1, 6-0, in just 59 minutes. No. 7 Gauff was able to overcome an injury in the second set to defeat Katerina Siniakova, 6-1, 6-4, and no. 13 Collins was able to have her left knee taped after beating Anna Kalinskaya 7-5, 5-7 7-5, 5-7, 7-5, 5-7.
Pegula and Gauff could play in the semifinals. Collins could take on No. 1 Iga Swiatek, which was scheduled for play on Monday in the fourth round.
“Today is just one of those days everything was working,” said Pegula who has made it to the quarterfinals in Melbourne in each of the past two years. “Always feels good when you win a match like that. I think when those days come, you just kind of take it and don’t complain and don’t critique. You kind of just move on to the next one.”