Rafael Nadal: 'I will answer the same every time'

Nadal will begin his Australian Open title defense against Britain's rising star Jack Draper

by Simone Brugnoli
Rafael Nadal: 'I will answer the same every time'

Reigning Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal will start his 18th career start at Melbourne Park on Monday against Jack Draper. The 22-time Major winner arrived in Melbourne early after two United Cup losses, working on his own game and hoping for a better run.

Rafa has been training with various rivals at Rod Laver Arena, perfecting his shots and finding time to share autographs. Nadal signed some fan's Roger Federer cap, missing his good friend in Melbourne after last competing with him in official matches at last year's Laver Cup.

Rafa went all the way in Melbourne 12 months ago against all odds, missing the second part of the 2021 season and just missing out on the final. Even so, he overcame Daniil Medvedev 2-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in five hours and 24 minutes to become the first player with 21 Major crowns.

Nadal added another Major trophy to his collection in Paris before suffering an injury at Wimbledon. Rafa lost four games in a row for the first time since 2009 and ended the season without form. The Spaniard is yet to win a match in 2023 after two US Cup losses.

Rafa got off to a good start against Cameron Norrie and Alex De Minaur before going down in three sets after spending more than two hours and 40 minutes on court in each. Nadal lost to Norrie for the first time, taking the first set but falling 3-6 6-3 6-4.

The Briton kicked off again in the second set and hit two breaks from 11 chances to control the score and secure the biggest win of his career. Sydney native Alex De Minaur had enormous support against Nadal in front of the home fans.

The Australian rallied in the second set and managed a break in the decider to celebrate a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 win.

Rafa Nadal on his retirement plans

Rafael Nadal has once again been forced to comment on his retirement from professional tennis, this time by fellow player Alexander Zverev.

"I don't know what's going to happen in six months," Nadal said. "I have a very good relationship with Zverev, but not enough to confess something like that to him. The reality is that I'm here to play tennis, try to have a great 2023, fight for everything that I have struggled throughout my career and I don't think about my retirement.

You think about it week after week because that's how you show me at every press conference. But I will answer the same every time you ask me," he said.

Rafael Nadal Australian Open Jack Draper