Australian Open draw: Rafael Nadal begins title protection with powerful check in opening spherical | CNN


Defending champion Rafael Nadal will face English teenager 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 match by damage, however with the return of Novak Djokovic to the competitors, Nadal might 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 could be a quarterfinal in opposition to Daniil Medvedev, who was Nadal’s opponent in final 12 months’s epic five-set remaining. Medvedev might 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 remaining 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 observe to face dwelling favourite Nick Kyrgios within the final eight.

The match 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 star sportsman who had beforehand expressed opposition to individuals being compelled to get the Covid-19 vaccine, he may very well 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 decide 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 overwhelmed the Scotsman three out of their 4 ATP conferences.

Following reigning champion Ashleigh Barty’s retirement from tennis final 12 months, Iga Światek has dominated the game and comes into the match 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 celebrity comes into the match in superb type, having received the ASB Basic with out dropping a set and is seeking to construct on her glorious 2022 which noticed her attain the Roland Garros remaining the place she was overwhelmed 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 12 months and win a grand slam. The Tunisian made each the Wimbledon and US Open finals however fell on the remaining hurdle in her pursuit to turn into the primary Arab and North African lady 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 just lately 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 prime of her sport, she might be seeking to arrange an exciting semifinal along with her United Cup opponent.