The defending champion Rafael Nadal made a winning start at the Australian Open. Rafa took down the young Briton Jack Draper 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 in three hours and 41 minutes. Nadal had to work hard in the opening three sets before taking charge in the fourth for his first victory of the season.
Nadal struggled behind the second serve and hit 41 winners and 46 unforced errors. He defended seven out of 11 break points and delivered six breaks from 12 opportunities to emerge at the top and pass a challenging obstacle.
Draper had the advantage in the rallies up to four strokes, which kept them in touch in the opening three sets. Nadal took advantage in the more extended exchanges to bring the victory home and match Ivan Lendl's 1068 ATP wins.
The returners barely won a point in the opening seven games, and Rafa moved 4-3 up after only 25 minutes. Draper saved a break point with a service winner in game eight and brought it home to remain on the positive side.
Rafael Nadal toppled Jack Draper in four sets in Melbourne.
Nadal produced six comfortable holds, and the pressure was on the young gun.
Rafa created a set point at 6-5 with a forced error and clinched it with a forehand crosscourt winner for 7-5 in 54 minutes. Suddenly, Jack took charge in the second set, serving well and finding the rhythm behind the return.
Rafa squandered game points at the start of the set and got broken after Jack's volley winner at the net. The youngster held at love in game two and extended his advantage with another break in the next one following a backhand down the line bullet.
Nadal struggled in those moments and faced more break points in the fifth game. Eager to avoid a bagel and find some rhythm, Rafa saved them to reduce the deficit and produced a fine hold at 1-5 to extend the set. A left-handed Briton held at 15 in game eight to wrap up an impressive set and level the overall score after an hour and 47 minutes.
Nadal made a fresh start in the third set and broke Draper at 2-1 following the youngster's double fault. Jack struggled physically but broke back in game seven thanks to Rafa's loose forehand. The Spaniard held in game nine for 5-4 and grabbed a break in the next one to clinch the set and open two sets to one advantage.
They traded breaks at the start of the fourth set, and Nadal delivered three straight return games for 5-1. The Spaniard saved break points in game seven while serving for the victory and sealed the deal after the rival's forehand error for a place in the second round.