Australian Open: Nadal dispatches Draper at Melbourne Park


British rising star Jack Draper tested Spain’s Rafael Nadal before physical issues cost him in a four-set loss in the Australian Open first round.

Draper, 21, levelled at one-set each, leading to 22-time major champion Nadal, 36, having a frank discussion with his team before the third set.

Top seed Nadal led 4-1 but was still unconvincing as Draper broke back before the Briton lost serve at 5-4.

Draper struggled to move in the fourth as Nadal secured a 7-5 2-6 6-4 6-1 win.

Britain’s Kyle Edmund was also knocked out on the opening day at Melbourne Park with a 6-4 6-0 6-2 defeat by Italian 15th seed Jannik Sinner.

Edmund, 28, reached the semi-finals in 2018 but is trying to rebuild his career after a knee injury which needed three operations before he returned to the tour last year.

Playing using a protected ranking, it was another tough draw at a Grand Slam for Edmund after he faced eventual runner-up Casper Ruud at last year’s US Open.

Cameron Norrie, seeded 11th, is aiming to avoid a clean sweep of defeats for the Britons in the men’s singles on Monday when he plays French wildcard Luca van Assche.

In the women’s singles, Emma Raducanu made a positive return to court after her injury scare in the build-up to the Grand Slam.

The British number one moved into the second round with a straight-set win over Germany’s Tamara Korpatsch and could be joined there by Harriet Dart, who plays Swiss 32nd seed Jil Teichmann.

For a good while on Rod Laver Arena it looked as though Draper could cause a stunning upset against a player he described as one of his “heroes”.

His ball-striking caused problems for Nadal throughout, but the physical issues which have dogged the left-hander’s burgeoning career returned.

Draper collapsed at the Miami Open in 2021 with a heat-related illness and was also forced to retire from his US Open third-round match last year when in a decent position against Russian 28th seed Karen Khachanov.

This time, he struggled with what appeared to be cramp and needed treatment from the physio in the third set.

By the latter stages of the fourth, Draper – who has risen to 38th in the world after being outside the top 250 last year – was unable to push off on serve.

Developing his body for the rigours of the ATP Tour was the priority for pre-season after hiring former Olympic sprinter and bobsleigher Dejan Vojnovic as a fitness coach.

This was another reminder the team have more work to do on improving the youngster’s physicality.

But performances like this reiterate he appears to have an exciting future ahead as he embarks on what is still only his first full season on the ATP Tour.

“I played one of the toughest possible opponents in the first round,” said Nadal.

“He is young, he has power and has a great future ahead. We will see him play for many years ahead.”