Back on the pitch where he became the man with the most Grand Slams in history, the Spaniard Rafael Nadal He kicked off his Australian Open title defense this Monday with a hard fought win, which he lost to local idol Nick Kyrgioswho withdrew from the tournament due to injury.
On the opening day of the first Grand Slam of the year, Nadal managed to neutralize the talented Briton in four sets. Jack Drapper (7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1) e reverse their losing streak of six defeats in their last seven games.
“I needed the win, that’s the main thing. It doesn’t matter how. The most important thing is the win against a tough rival (…) one of the toughest in the first round being seeded”he later reflected at a press conference.
With a powerful first serve and the ability to return Nadal’s long rallies, the 21-year-old Briton demonstrated at the Rod Laver Arena the reasons that led him to climb 200 places in the ATP rankings in one year to number 38.
The first set didn’t lose balance until the last game, in which Rafa showed his left foot and took advantage of two drop shots to break serve and win the first set.
But in the second half, Draper didn’t let himself be intimidated and gave the Spaniard a double break. “These are the games that change the game (…) I have to keep making it better”Nadal admitted at the press conference.
The balance and the exchange of blows were maintained until the middle of the third chapter, when Draper noticed a nuisance in his right thigh, which reduced his performance and forced him to seek medical assistance.
With an opponent with a limp, who in the end could barely run and showed obvious gestures of pain, Nadal closed the passage to the second round where he will face the American mackenzie mcdonaldwhich took just over four hours and five sets to knock his compatriot out of the competition Brandon Nakashima of 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1), 1-6, 6-7 (10) and 6-4.
returned Novak Djokovic in Australia after his media deportation in 2022 For not having been vaccinated against covid-19, Nadal is not only playing for the title, but for the record of 22 Grand Slams, which the Serbian can equal if he wins for the tenth time in Melbourne.
In the women’s draw, the current number 1 in the world, the Pole Iga Swiatekstarts as favorite to win the title vacated by now-retired Australian Ashleigh Barty.
On his way to his fourth Grand Slam after two Roland Garros and a US Open, Swiatek competes this Monday against the German Jule Niemeierwhich made her suffer in the second round of the last big game in New York.
None of its main rivals have failed.
The Americans Jessica Pegula (3rd) e Coco Gauff (7th) authoritatively resolved the respective matches against the Romanian Jaqueline Cristian (6-0 and 6-1) and the Czech Katerina Siniakova (6-1 and 6-4).
The Greek Maria Saccari (6th) passed the Chinese without too many complications Yuan Yue for 6-1 and 6-4 and executioner of Swiatek in the semifinals of 2022, the American Daniel Collinsshe struggled but beat Russia’s Ana Kalinskaya 7-5, 5-7 and 6-4.
In a duel between the only two Open champions in contention, the Belarusian Victoria Azarenka she beat American Sofia Kenin 6-4, 7-6 (3). And she will be the rival of Nadia Podoroska, who entered the main draw with a protected draw and easily beating the French Léolia Jeanjean 6-0, 6-3.
In the men’s draw, the main surprise came from off the field, with the announcement of the retirement of the talented Kyrgios who, after years of controversy and irregular performances, seemed ready to aspire to the Grand Slam.
“I’m devastated”Said Kyrgios, current doubles champion in Australia and finalist at the last Wimbledon, who suffers from an injury to his left knee, where he has a small tear in a meniscus.
waiting for Russian Daniel Medvedev (finalist in 2022 and 2021), they overcame top seeds like the Greek Stephen Tsitsipasthe American Frances Tiafoe and the enamel Hubert Hurkacz.
In the first tournament with Roger Federer officially retired and with Nadal and Djokovic already closer to 40 than 30, a new generation of tennis players led by the absent world number 1, the Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, they aspire to end the era of the “Big Three”.
Of them, the Italian Jannik sinner quickly secured a place in the second round, defeating the British 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 Kyle Edmondo.
In the second round he will see faces with the Argentine Tomás Martin Etcheverry who, after four failed attempts last year, won her first Grand Slam match.
His compatriot had the same Francis CerundoloSeeded 28th, who eliminated compatriot Guido Pella.
Older was the milestone of 17-year-old Chinese teenager, shang junchengwho became the first man from his country to win this tournament.
Jason Root is the go-to source for sports coverage at News Rebeat. With a passion for athletics and an in-depth knowledge of the latest sports trends, Jason provides comprehensive and engaging analysis of the world of sports.