clearn.png
Sunday February 5th, 2023 9:16PM

Nadal struggles at times during 4-set win at Australian Open

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal never truly seemed in danger of becoming the first Australian Open defending men’s champion to lose in the first round since his current coach, Carlos Moya, managed to beat Boris Becker a quarter of a century ago.

Still, this was not a vintage performance by Nadal, who came into Monday’s matchup against 21-year-old Jack Draper with an 0-2 record in 2023 and six losses in his past seven outings overall. After nearly two hours of so-so play, Nadal found himself even at a set apiece.

He appeared to be pulling away, taking advantage of his opponent’s bout with cramps on an afternoon with the temperature at about 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius), when suddenly Draper went up by a break in the fourth set. From there, though, Nadal would not drop another game, beginning his pursuit of a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam championship with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 win that took more than 3 1/2 hours in Rod Laver Arena.

“I need a victory, so that’s the main thing,” Nadal said. “Doesn’t matter the way.”

That's good, then, because the 36-year-old from Spain was not in peak form. All in all, it was a bit of a struggle. He tried to put a silver-lining spin on things, nonetheless, given his recent track record and knowing that he tore an abdominal muscle twice in the past six months.

“I was humble enough to accept that (there were) going to be a little bit of ups and downs during the match,” Nadal said. “(That's a) typical thing when you are not in a winning mood.”

Both men are left-handers, but that is pretty much where the similarities end, whether in terms of style or age or experience or accomplishments.

Nadal, who is seeded No. 1 because top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz is sidelined with an injury, is appearing in his 67th Grand Slam tournament. Draper, ranked a career-best No. 38 this week, was making his fourth trip to a major and his best showing was getting to the third round at the U.S. Open last September.

Draper also has faced 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.

“Real honor to play against him, someone I’ve idolized growing up. To go toe-to-toe with him on a big court like that is special,” Draper said. “I can take away the fact that my tennis is getting closer and closer. And physically, I’ll be first to say I’m still a work in progress.”

This time, signs of trouble showed up early, and Draper was treated by a trainer during changeovers. Later, he massaged his right thigh between points.

Nadal, not surprisingly, wore Draper down from the baseline, engaging in exchanges before finding an opening to yank a big forehand this way or that.

“When you win matches, you are more relaxed,” Nadal said. “You are more confident.”

His next opponent will be Mackie McDonald, a past NCAA champion at UCLA who won an all-American matchup against Brandon Nakashima that lasted 4 hours by a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1), 1-6, 6-7 (10), 6-4 score.

The No. 1-seeded woman, Iga Swiatek, followed Nadal into Laver for the night session and found herself in a tight second set before reeling off the last four games to eliminate 69th-ranked Jule Niemeier 6-4, 7-5.

Americans Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff and Danielle Collins, the 2022 runner-up at Melbourne Park, also reached the second round with straight-set victories Monday, and 2017 U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys won in three sets. Others advancing included 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu, 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu and sixth-seeded Maria Sakkari, while two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka got past 2020 winner Sofia Kenin 6-4, 7-6 (3).

There were plenty of other major titlists on the packed Day 1 schedule, with Petra Kvitova, Elena Rybakina, Jelena Ostapenko and Barbora Krejcikova among the winners. But three-time Slam champ Stan Wawrinka bowed out with a 6-7 (3), 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 loss to Alex Molcan.

The biggest surprise of the day came off the court: the withdrawal of Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios, who needs surgery on his left knee.

“I'm devastated, obviously,” said Kyrgios, a 27-year-old from Australia who won the men's doubles championship at Melbourne Park a year ago.

Men who moved on included No. 3-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime, No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz, No. 16 Frances Tiafoe and No. 20 Denis Shapovalov. Daniil Medvedev, the 2021 U.S. Open champion and the runner-up in Melbourne the past two years, breezed past Marcos Giron of the U.S. 6-0, 6-1, 6-2 at night.

The No. 3-seeded Pegula overwhelmed Jaqueline Cristian of Romania 6-0, 6-1 in just 59 minutes, No. 7 Gauff overcame a second-set wobble to beat Katerina Siniakova 6-1, 6-4, and No. 13 Collins had her left knee treated and taped up while defeating Anna Kalinskaya 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.

Pegula and Gauff could meet in the semifinals; Collins could play Swiatek in the fourth round.

“Today is just one of those days everything was working,” said Pegula, a quarterfinalist in Melbourne each of the past two years. “Always feels good when you win a match like that. I think when those days come you just kind of take it and don’t complain and don’t critique. You kind of just move on to the next one.”

___ AP freelancer Simon Cambers contributed to this report.

___

AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Tennis, College Sports
© Copyright 2023 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Scandal-hit EU political group starts damage limitation work
The major political group embroiled in a massive European Union corruption scandal will seek this week to insulate itself from further fallout in the cash-for-influence affair linked to Qatar and Morocco
2:51AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Nadal struggles at times during 4-set win at Australian Open
Rafael Nadal has started the defense of his Australian Open title with a bit of a struggle along the way to a four-set victory over a cramping Jack Draper
2:42AM ( 27 minutes ago )
Andreescu's 'Aha moment' made Australian Open win possible
Bianca Andreescu has defeated the 25th-seeded Marie Bouzkova at the Australian Open
2:12AM ( 57 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Nick Kyrgios pulls out of Australian Open with injured knee
Nick Kyrgios has pulled out of the Australian Open a day before he was scheduled to play his first-round match
12:36AM ( 2 hours ago )
NFL playoffs: No lead safe, drama abounds in wild weekend
The Buffalo Bills blew a 17-point advantage before recovering to win
11:54PM ( 3 hours ago )
Bills hang on for 34-31 wild-card win over Dolphins
Josh Allen shrugged off a three-turnover outing by throwing two touchdown passes 3:11 apart in the third quarter, and the Buffalo Bills rallied for a 34-31 win over the injury-depleted Miami Dolphins in an AFC wild-card matchup
11:51PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Sports
Jessica Pegula is 1st player to Australian Open's 2nd round
Jessica Pegula began her bid for a first Grand Slam singles title by overwhelming Jaqueline Cristian 6-0, 6-1 in the first round of the Australian Open
8:23PM ( 6 hours ago )
Australian Open lookahead: Nadal, Gauff in Day 1 action
The Australian Open begins at Melbourne Park with 18-year-old American Coco Gauff in action in Rod Laver Arena against Katerina Siniakova
9:21PM ( 1 day ago )
Nadal in rut, Djokovic on roll as Australian Open approaches
Rafael Nadal acknowledges feeling vulnerable as the Australian Open approaches
2:46AM ( 2 days ago )
AP Online Tennis
Scandal-hit EU political group starts damage limitation work
The major political group embroiled in a massive European Union corruption scandal will seek this week to insulate itself from further fallout in the cash-for-influence affair linked to Qatar and Morocco
2:51AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Andreescu's 'Aha moment' made Australian Open win possible
Bianca Andreescu has defeated the 25th-seeded Marie Bouzkova at the Australian Open
2:12AM ( 57 minutes ago )
Nick Kyrgios out of Australian Open, will have knee surgery
Nick Kyrgios has pulled out of the Australian Open a day before he was scheduled to play his first-round match
1:41AM ( 1 hour ago )
Huntley's fumble ends Ravens' season with Jackson back home
The Baltimore Ravens’ season ended with Lamar Jackson not in uniform, not on the bench — not even in Cincinnati with the team
1:40AM ( 1 hour ago )
Report: Myanmar arms industry growing after army takeover
A report says companies from at least 13 countries have helped Myanmar build up its capacity to produce weapons that are being used to commit atrocities
1:39AM ( 1 hour ago )