'Jack Draper will trouble Rafael Nadal,' says Cameron Norrie

Rafael Nadal will face Jack Draper in the Australian Open first round on Monday

by Jovica Ilic
'Jack Draper will trouble Rafael Nadal,' says Cameron Norrie

Rafael Nadal will start his chase toward the third Australian Open title at Rod Laver Arena on Monday. Nadal will face the 21-year-old Briton Jack Draper in the opening round, facing a fierce rival right from the start. Jack made a mane for himself in 2022, gaining over 200 positions on the ATP ranking list after conquering four Challenger titles and winning his first Major and Masters 1000 matches.

Draper wrapped up the previous season just outside the top-40 and made a solid start to the new season following the Adelaide 2 semi-final. The young gun will step at Rod Laver Arena against one of the greatest players of all time on Monday, hoping for a good run against the defending champion.

Draper's compatriot Cameron Norrie backed the youngster to challenge Nadal and make him run for his money. Norrie will enjoy the duel, wishing Jack to execute his strokes and produce his A-game. Rafa has been struggling with form and injury since the last year's Wimbledon, losing seven out of 11 matches and not making a good start at the United Cup.

Nadal won the opening set against Cameron Norrie and Alex de Minaur before falling in three sets after over two hours and 40 minutes, giving his best but losing the crucial points. Nadal lost to Norrie for the first time, taking the opener but falling 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The Briton made a fresh start in the second set and delivered two breaks from 11 chances to control the scoreboard and secure a career-best victory. The Sydney native Alex de Minaur had massive support against Nadal in front of the home fans.

The Aussie bounced back in the second set and delivered a late break in the decider to celebrate a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 triumph. They traded breaks in the middle of the opener, and Nadal stepped in to rattle off four straight games and win it 6-3.

Rafa grabbed an early lead in the second set but could not bring it home from there.

Rafael Nadal faces Jack Draper in the Australian Open R1.

Alex stepped in and delivered six consecutive games to clinch the set 6-1 and gain a massive boost ahead of the decider.

Rafa made a better start, serving well and earning break opportunities in game two. De Minaur denied four and avoided an early setback in one of the pivotal moments. Alex grabbed a break at 15 in game five before Rafa cracked a forehand crosscourt winner in the next one to return to the positive side.

The Spaniard held at love in the ninth game for 5-4 and left his opponent serving to stay in the match. Alex brought the tenth game for 5-5 and broke Rafa at love in the next one to forge the advantage. De Minaur served for the victory in game 12 and fired a service winner for a hold at love and a career-best win in his hometown.

"For me, it's a tough job for Rafa. Jack is one of the best unseeded players, and he will surely trouble him. It will be a good match, and I'm looking forward to watching it. Jack will have to run a lot and execute his strokes. However, he has a chance of beating Rafa," Cameron Norrie said.

Jack Draper Rafael Nadal Cameron Norrie