Australian Open draw: Rafael Nadal begins title protection with powerful take a look at in opening spherical



CNN
 — 

Defending champion Rafael Nadal will face English teen Jack Draper within the opening spherical of the Australian Open in a bid to retain his 2022 crown and prolong his grand slam tally.

World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz could also be lacking the event via damage, however with the return of Novak Djokovic to the competitors, Nadal will likely be onerous pushed to defend his title.

Thursday’s draw was not form to the 22-time main winner: if he defeats the world No. 40 Draper, he doubtlessly faces present Subsequent Gen ATP Finals champion Brandon Nakashima.

Doubtlessly awaiting the Spaniard later can be a quarterfinal in opposition to Daniil Medvedev, who was Nadal’s opponent in final yr’s epic five-set last. Medvedev will likely be seeking to make it a 3rd consecutive finals look after shedding to Djokovic in 2021 and to Nadal in 2022.

A rematch of the 2021 last is on the playing cards, with Djokovic within the reverse half from Nadal and Medvedev. The nine-time Australian Open champion faces one other Spaniard, Roberto Carballes Baena, within the opening spherical and is on monitor to face residence favourite Nick Kyrgios within the final eight.

The event comes 12 months after Djokovic was deported from Australia on the eve of the 2022 version after former immigration minister Alex Hawke discovered the tennis star posed a threat to public well being and order as a result of, as a celeb sportsman who had beforehand expressed opposition to individuals being compelled to get the Covid-19 vaccine, he could possibly be seen as an “icon” for anti-vaxxers.

The minister’s choice to deport the previous world No. 1 meant he was initially banned from reentry for 3 years.

Nineteenth-seeded Kyrgios is a part of an exciting part of the draw which incorporates Holger Rune, Dan Evans and Andrey Rublev.

Russian Rublev comes into the Australian Open because the fifth seed, however on Wednesday suffered a shock defeat to world No. 110 Thanasi Kokkinakis within the Adelaide 2. Rublev faces a blockbuster opening spherical match in opposition to former world No. 3 and 2020 Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem.

Andy Murray options within the different choose of the spherical as he faces Thirteenth-seeded Matteo Berrettini. The Italian beat the three-time grand slam winner in 4 units on the 2022 US Open and has crushed the Scotsman three out of their 4 ATP conferences.

Following reigning champion Ashleigh Barty’s retirement from tennis final yr, Iga Światek has dominated the game and comes into the event as the highest seed. The Pole opens in opposition to German Jule Niemeier however faces a tasty potential quarterfinal conflict with American scorching prospect Coco Gauff.

The 18-year-old famous person comes into the event in superb type, having received the ASB Basic with out dropping a set and is seeking to construct on her wonderful 2022 which noticed her attain the Roland Garros last the place she was crushed by Światek.

Forward of any quarterfinal conflict with the favourite although, Gauff faces a second spherical match in opposition to 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu who’s in a race in opposition to time to recuperate from an ankle damage.

Within the different half of the draw, second seed Ons Jabeur begins her 2023 attempting to go one higher than final yr and win a grand slam. The Tunisian made each the Wimbledon and US Open finals however fell on the last hurdle in her pursuit to change into the primary Arab and North African girl to win a grand slam.

After lacking the 2022 Open, Jabeur opens her 2023 account in opposition to Tamara Zidanšek and will face Aryna Sabalenka who’s coming off the again of successful at Adelaide 1, her eleventh profession title and first in 19 months.

Elsewhere, American Jessica Pegula has been drawn in the identical a part of the draw as Maria Sakkari. Pegula not too long ago led Group USA to victory within the inaugural United Cup, which featured an excellent straight-set win over Światek. Having reached back-to-back quarterfinals in Melbourne and on the high of her recreation, she will likely be seeking to arrange an exciting semifinal along with her United Cup opponent.