Nadal prevails in 4 sets, labels it a ‘positive start’

Products You May Like

MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal never truly seemed in danger of becoming the first Australian Open defending men’s champion to lose in the first round since his current coach, Carlos Moya, managed to beat Boris Becker a quarter of a century ago.

Still, this was not a vintage performance by Nadal, who came into Monday’s matchup against 21-year-old Jack Draper with an 0-2 record in 2023 and six losses in his past seven outings overall. After nearly two hours of so-so play, Nadal found himself even at a set apiece.

He appeared to be pulling away, taking advantage of his opponent’s bout with cramps on an afternoon with the temperature at about 85 degrees Fahrenheit, when suddenly Draper went up by a break in the fourth set. From there, though, Nadal would not drop another game, beginning his pursuit of a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam championship with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory that took more than 3½ hours in Rod Laver Arena.

Nadal was not in peak form. All in all, it was a bit of a struggle. He tried to put a silver-lining spin on things, nonetheless.

“If we put in perspective all the situation that I went through the last six months,” the 36-year-old from Spain said, “I think it was a very positive start.”

Both men are left-handers, but that is pretty much where the similarities end, whether in terms of style or age or experience or accomplishments.

Nadal, who is seeded No. 1 because top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz is sidelined with an injury, is appearing in his 67th Grand Slam tournament. Draper, ranked a career-best No. 38 this week, was making his fourth trip to a major and his best showing was getting to the third round at the US Open last September.

Draper also has shown problems dealing with steamy conditions: In his ATP Tour debut at the Miami Open in March 2021, he collapsed on court and needed to stop playing after one set.

This time, signs of trouble showed up early, and Draper was treated by a trainer during changeovers. Later, he massaged his right thigh between points.

Nadal, not surprisingly, wore Draper down from the baseline, engaging in exchanges before finding an opening to yank a big forehand this way or that.

“Last year has been, without a doubt, one of the most emotional tournaments of my tennis career. No doubt about that,” said Nadal, who came back from a two-set deficit against Daniil Medvedev in the final to win the trophy. “But unfortunately, that (is in the past), so we need to keep working.”

His next opponent will be Mackie McDonald, a past NCAA champion at UCLA who won an all-American matchup against Brandon Nakashima that lasted 4 hours by a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1), 1-6, 6-7 (10), 6-4 score.

In other results from Monday, American Frances Tiafoe, seeded 16th, defeated Germany’s Daniel Altmaier 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6) to reach the Australian Open second round for the fifth time in his career.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

Polish Tennis Players Hubert Hurkacz and Marketa Vondrousova Withdraw from Paris Olympics
Frankrijk is een van de favorieten voor het EK, maar Portugal vormt een bedreiging
Julien Biron: Reflections on P1500 Tournament in Bandol
Matteo Berrettini: Triomftocht op de Kleicourts
ATP Rankings Update