At the Australian Open on Monday, defending champion Rafael Nadal started his quest for a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam title when he defeated a Briton named Jack Draper to advance to the second round.
In the scorching heat at Rod Laver Arena, the top seed from Spain defeated Briton Jack Draper 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 after unleashing some of his signature hammer forehands and 46 unforced errors. It increased his win-loss record at Melbourne Park to 77-15 and sent him into the second round for the 17th time.
He will next play Mackenzie Mcdonald, who won a five-set thriller over fellow American Brandon Nakashima.
“I needed to win this. In the first round, I faced one of the toughest opponents possible. He’s young and powerful, and I believe he has a bright future ahead of him.
The 36-year-old had lost six of his previous seven matches, including his first two this year, so it was a hard road for him.
In a first set that was notable for a bizarre incident in which Nadal complained that one of his racquets had gone missing, Little separated them.
He kept his cool and waited for his chance, which came at 6-5 on Draper’s serve when he won a set point and hit a crushing winner across the court.
However, Draper improved his game and jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second set, causing Nadal to lose focus and lose the match.
The Spaniard came back strong in the third set and broke early to take a 4-1 lead and win the long rallies. Draper had to get treatment for his upper right leg multiple times, but despite the odds, he came back before Nadal came up again.
Nadal showed no mercy as he sprinted to victory in the fourth set, clearly struggling and occasionally grinning in pain.
With his five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev in the final, Nadal made history on the same court last year.
He broke Novak Djokovic’s and Roger Federer’s records of 21 Grand Slam men’s singles titles with this victory.
He finished 22nd at Roland Garros, and Djokovic won Wimbledon to finish 21st.
Djokovic, who is returning this year and will begin his campaign on Tuesday, was unable to compete in Nadal’s 2022 Melbourne run.