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Australian Open 2023: Needed this win, says Nadal after he begins title defence with win over Draper

Defending champion Rafael Nadal defeated Britain's Jack Draper 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the first round of the Australian Open 2023 on Monday,

tennis Australian Open 2023: Needed this win, says Nadal after defending champion opens campaign with win over Draper snt
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First Published Jan 16, 2023, 1:21 PM IST

Defending champion Rafael Nadal registered his 77th career win in Melbourne as he overcame Britain's Jack Draper in four sets to seal his berth in the second round of the Australian Open 2023 on Monday. The Spaniard, who has had a tough last few months owing to injury, registered a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 over the 21-year-old tennis sensation in front of a packed Rod Laver Arena.

In a match with only left-handed players, Nadal won sets one and three with crucial, late breaks to make up for Draper's nearly 6-0 second-set lead. The Briton faced up against Nadal and outplayed him for periods of time before succumbing to the Spaniard's constant pressure.In a match with only left-handed players, Nadal won sets one and three with crucial, late breaks to make up for Draper's nearly 6-0 second-set lead. The Briton faced up against Nadal and outplayed him for periods of time before succumbing to the Spaniard's constant pressure.

Draper started to experience cramps and needed treatment during multiple changeovers as the Spaniard regained control of the match in the third set, locating his forehand from all parts of the court.

Early in the fourth set, both men played some of their finest tennis, with Draper collecting his fourth break to take the lead. But as Draper's health difficulties grew worse, Nadal won the final six games.

The inaugural ATP Head2Head encounter between the two players was briefly stopped early on by rain, and the play on the court seemed to reflect the match's stop-start nature as each player took turns controlling from the baseline. Draper quickly built a 4-0 lead in the second set thanks to his powerful forehand after barely losing the first set.

As Draper rallied from a set down to tie the third set, the outcome of the match was in doubt; however, Nadal did just enough to hold his opponent at bay and end any chance of an upset; the fourth set was never in doubt.

After this victory, Nadal stated the importance of starting the tournament positively, especially given his recent struggles.

"It's a great feeling to be back. This is one of the most emotional tournaments of my tennis career. I am super happy to be here at the Rod Laver arena in Australia one more time. Very excited about this new beginning. I needed this victory and hopefully this win will help me," said Nadal in an on-court interview following his win in the first round of the Grand Slam.

When asked about how he felt about his form, the 22-time Grand Slam champion said, "If we put into perspective the situation that I went through in the last six months, this is a very positive start. Draper is one of the toughest opponents to face in the first round. He has a great future ahead and will surely play for many years here."

Nadal is attempting to win his third Australian Open title as he competes for a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam singles crown. He will meet Mackenzie McDonald in the second round after the American's 7-6(5), 7-6(1), 1-6, 6-7(10), 6-4 win against countryman Brandon Nakashima on Monday.

Draper was attempting to get to a Grand Slam's second round for the third time. His finest major accomplishment was an upset over Felix Auger-Aliassime in the third round of the 2022 US Open. The British player now has a record of 0-2 versus top seeds at Slams after losing to Novak Djokovic on his major debut at Wimbledon in 2021.

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