Australian Open draw: Rafael Nadal begins title defense with tough first-round test | CNN


Defending champion Rafael Nadal will face English youngster Jack Draper in the first round of the Australian Open to retain his 2022 crown and add to his Grand Slam tally.

World number one Carlos Alcaraz may be missing the tournament due to injury, but with Novak Djokovic back in contention, Nadal will find it difficult to defend his title.

Thursday’s draw was not kind to the 22-time major winner: If he beats world No. 40 Draper, he will likely face reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Brandon Nakashima.

The Spaniard will potentially face a quarter-final against Daniil Medvedev, Nadal’s opponent in last year’s epic five-set final. Medvedev will be looking to make it a third straight final after losing to Djokovic in 2021 and Nadal in 2022.

A rematch of the 2021 final is on the cards with Djokovic opposite Nadal and Medvedev. The nine-time Australian Open champion faces another Spaniard, Roberto Carballes Bena, in the first round and home favorite Nick Kyrgios in the last eight.

The tournament comes 12 months after Djokovic was deported from Australia ahead of the 2022 edition after former immigration minister Alex Hawke deemed the tennis star a risk to public health and order because, as a celebrity athlete, he had previously antagonized people. Forced to get the Covid-19 vaccine, he can be seen as an “icon” for anti-vaxxers.

The minister’s decision to deport the former world No.1 meant he was initially banned from re-entry for three years.

Nineteenth-seeded Kyrgios is part of a thrilling part of the draw that includes Holger Roone, Dan Evans and Andrey Rublev.

Russian Rublev came into the Australian Open as the fifth seed, but suffered a heartbreaking loss to world number 110 Thanasi Kokkinakis at Adelaide 2 on Wednesday. Rublev faces former world No. 3 and 2020 Australian Open finalist Dominic in a blockbuster opening round match. theme.

Andy Murray faces 13th seed Matteo Berrettini in the other seed of the round. The Italian defeated the three-time Grand Slam winner in four sets at the 2022 US Open and has defeated the Scotsman in three of their four ATP meetings.

After reigning champion Ashley Barty retired from tennis last year, Iga Suatec has dominated the game and comes into the tournament as the top seed. The Pole starts against German Jules Niemeyer but faces a tasty potential quarter-final with American hot prospect Coco Goff.

The 18-year-old superstar comes into the tournament in great form, winning the ASB Classic without dropping a set and looking to build on his superb 2022 that saw him reach the Roland Garros final where he was defeated by Suatec.

Before any quarter-final clash with the favourite, however, Goff will face a second-round match against 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu who is racing against time to recover from an ankle injury.

In the other half of the draw, second seed Once Jabeur starts his 2023 trying to go one better than last year and win a Grand Slam. The Tunisian has made the finals of both Wimbledon and the US Open but faces a final hurdle in her pursuit to become the first Arab and North African woman to win a Grand Slam.

After missing out on the 2022 Open, Jabeur opens her 2023 account against Tamra Zidancek and could face Aryna Sabalenka who is coming off the back of a win at Adelaide 1, her 11th career title and first in 19 months.

Elsewhere, American Jessica Pegula drew in the same part of the draw as Maria Sakkari. Pegula recently led Team USA to victory in the opening match of the United Cup, which featured an impressive straight sets victory over Suatec. Having reached back-to-back quarter-finals in Melbourne and at the top of his game, he will be looking to set up a thrilling semi-final with his United Cup opponents.

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