Rafael Nadal Struggles At Times In The Australian’s Opener But Prevails In 4 Sets

Rafael Nadal struggles at times in the Australian’s opener but prevails in 4 sets

Rafael Nadal struggles at times in the Australian’s opening match but prevails in 4 sets. MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal didn’t seem  in real danger of becoming the first defending men’s Australian Open champion to lose in the first round since his current coach,  Carlos Moya , beat Boris Becker a quarter of a century ago.

Rafael Nadal struggles at times in the Australian’s opener but prevails in 4 sets

However, it was no vintage performance for Nadal, who went into Monday’s match against 21-year-old Jack Draper with a 0-2 record in 2023 and six losses in his past seven matches overall. After nearly two hours of play, Nadal found himself down one set.

He seemed to be pulling away, taking advantage of his opponent’s bout with cramps in the afternoon with a temperature around 85 degrees Fahrenheit, when suddenly Draper rallied with a break in the fourth set. From there, though, Nadal didn’t give up another match, as he began his quest for a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam tournament with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory that took over 3 1/2 hours in the process. Rod. Laver Arena.

“I need a victory, and that’s the main thing,” said Nadal. “It doesn’t matter which way.”

That’s fine, then, because the 36-year-old Spaniard wasn’t at the peak of his fitness. Overall, it was a bit of a struggle. He tried to silver things up, however, given his recent record and the knowledge that he’s torn his abdominal muscle twice in the last six months.

“I was humble enough to accept that there will be some ups and downs during the match,” Nadal said. “[It] is a typical thing when you are not in a winning mood.”

Both men are left-handed, but this is where the similarities end, whether in terms of style, age, experience, or accomplishments.

No. 1 seed Nadal due to No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz due to injury, appears in his 67th Grand Slam tournament. Draper, a career-best No. 38 seed this week, was making his fourth trip to the major, his best showing coming to the third round at the US Open last September.

Draper has also 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 dealt with by the coach during changes. Next, he massaged his right thigh between the two points.

Not surprisingly, Nadal wore Draper off from the baseline, engaging in exchanges before finding an opportunity to pull off a big forehand this way or that.

 ” Last year was without a doubt one of the most exciting tournaments in my tennis career. There is no doubt about that,” said Nadal, who came back from two sets down against Daniil Medvedev in the final to win the title. . “But unfortunately, that’s [in the past], so we need to keep working.”

His next opponent will be Mackie McDonald, former NCAA champion at UCLA who won a   four-hour All- American against Brandon Nakashima by odds of 7-6(5), 7-6(1), 1-6, 6. 7(10), 6 -4 degrees.

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 second round of the Australian Open for the fifth time in a row. his career.

Other men moving into the No. 3 spot  include Stefanos Tsitsipas , No. 6  Felix Auger-Aliassime , No. 10  Hubert Hurkacz , and No. 20  Denis Shapovalov . Medvedev, the 2021 US Open champion and runner-up in Melbourne for the past two years, beat American Marcus Giron  6-0, 6-1, 6-2 at night.

Americans Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff and Danielle Collins, 2022 runners-up at Melbourne Park, reached the second round in the women’s category with victories on Monday. Other finalists include 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducano and sixth seed Maria Sakkari, while two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka edged out 2020’s Sofia Kenin 6-4, 7-6(3).

The biggest surprise of the day was the withdrawal of Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios, who needed surgery on his left knee.

“Of course I’m devastated,” said Kyrgios, the 27-year-old from Australia who won the men’s doubles tournament at Melbourne Park a year ago.

The No. 3 seed beat Romania’s Jacqueline Christian 6-0 6-1 in just 59 minutes, and the 7-seed Gauff overcame a bumbling second set to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-1 6-4 13. Collins treated her left knee and taped it while she took down Anna Kalinskaya 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.

Pegula and Gough could meet in the semifinals; Collins could play No. 1 Iga Swiatek – who was due to play later on Monday – in the fourth round.

“Today is just one of those days when everything worked,” said Pegula, a quarter-finalist in Melbourne in each of the past two years. “It always feels good when you win a game like that. I think when those days come, you kind of take it and you don’t complain and you don’t criticize. You move on to the next game.”