Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal kicked off his Australian Open 2023 title defense on Monday with a four-set fight to a victory over Britain's Jack Draper and advanced to the second round.
Nadal wasn't in top form, but today he managed to beat Draper 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, in a match that lasted more than three and a half hours at the Rod Laver Arena. This was Nadal's first win of 2023. With a little more suffering than expected, Rafael Nadal has qualified for the seventeenth time for the second round of the Australian Open.
Nadal entered the court with very clear ideas to press from the start. He was aware that he was facing a dangerous opponent. A 21-year-old tennis player, left-handed like him, who in one season has jumped from the top 200 to 38 and who debuted at the Rod Laver Arena in his first Australian Grand Slam. Although Draper broke Nadal's serve in the first game of the final set when the Australian punished a hesitant drop shot attempt from the Spaniard with a winner. But Nadal won the next six straight games to take the match, while the hit-up Brit was left behind.
Draper played some superb tennis to tie the match to a set. But the 21-year-old soon developed leg problems and complained of pain. After that, Nadal closed out the match on a warm, sunny afternoon at Rod Laver Arena.
"Super happy to be back here in Australia one more time. It's like the 19th season in the professional tour so very excited about this new beginning. It's a victory I needed. I played against one of the toughest opponents possible in the first round. He's young, he has the power and I think he has a great future in front of him." Nadal said after the match.
In the next round, the American Mackenzie McDonald awaits Nadal. With McDonald, he has only met once. On the clay of Roland Garros, which ended with a 6-1, 6-0, and 6-3 victory for the man from Manacor. Nadal already won 77 matches on the Melbourne courts.