Australian Open draw: Rafael Nadal begins title defense with tough test in opening round



Reigning champion Rafael Nadal will face England youngster Jack Draper in the opening round of the Australian Open to retain his 2022 crown and extend his Grand Slam tally.

World No. 1 Carlos Alcarez may be out of the tournament due to injury, but the return of Novak Djokovic will give Nadal a tough push 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 Brendan Nakashima.

The Spaniard is likely to face Daniil Medvedev, Nadal’s opponent in last year’s five-set final, in the quarter-finals later. Medvedev will be looking to reach a third consecutive final after losing to Djokovic in 2021 and Nadal in 2022.

A rematch of the 2021 final is set, with Djokovic in the opposite half to Nadal and Medvedev. The nine-time Australian Open champion faces another Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena in the opening round and is on course to face home favorite Nick Kyrgios in the last eight.

The tournament comes 12 months after Djokovic was deported from Australia on the eve of the 2022 edition after former immigration minister Alex Hawke found the tennis star posed a risk to public health and order because, as a celebrity player, , who had previously opposed the people. Forced to take 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-entering for three years.

19th seed Kyrgios is part of an exciting section of the draw that includes Holger Roone, Dan Evans and Andrey Rublev.

Russian Rublev is seeded fifth at the Australian Open, but lost to world No. 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 added the second pick of the round, facing 13th seed Matteo Berretini. The Italian beat the three-time Grand Slam winner in four sets at the 2022 US Open and has beaten the Scotsman in three of their four ATP meetings.

Since reigning champion Ashleigh Barty retired from tennis last year, Iga Sviatek has dominated the game and comes into the tournament as the top seed. Dhruv opens against German Jules Niemeyer but faces an intriguing potential quarterfinal clash with American hot prospect Coco Goff.

The 18-year-old superstar comes into the tournament in fine form, winning the ASB Classic without dropping a set and looking to build on her stellar 2022 that saw her reach the Roland Garros final where she was beaten by Sviatek.

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

In the second half of the draw, second seed Onus Jabbour looked to start his 2023 in a better way than last year and win a Grand Slam. The Tunisian made the finals of both Wimbledon and the US Open but ran into the final hurdle in her bid 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 campaign against Tamara Zidanecek and could face Aryna Sabalenka, who is returning after winning at Adelaide 1, her 11th career title and first in 19 months. .

Elsewhere, American Jessica Pegula has been placed in the same part of the draw as Maria Saccari. Pegula recently led Team USA to victory in the inaugural United Cup, with a stunning straight-sets victory over Sviatek. Coming off back-to-back quarter-finals in Melbourne and at the top of her game, she will look to set up a thrilling semi-final with her United Cup opponent.

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