Rafael Nadal will face a difficult opening test at the Australian Open against British lefty Jack Draper, while Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios are in the same quarter of the draw, it was revealed Thursday afternoon at Melbourne Park.
Defending champion Nadal will need to be sharp from his first match against Draper, a 2022 Next Gen ATP Finals competitor. The 21-year-old, who owns two Top 10 wins, has made a quick start to his season. The World No. 40 will compete in the Adelaide International 2 semi-finals on Friday.
“It’ll be amazing to play on court with him, he’s a great champion,” Draper said. “[There are] a lot of emotions obviously when I think of playing him, but that’s one thing, I’ve still got to go and play tomorrow and hopefully do well in this tournament first.
“Whatever happens, it’ll be a special occasion for me, still very young in my career, so it’s great to have these sort of experiences and exposure to playing someone like Rafa on a big court like that. But I want to play really well and I want to compete hard and do the best I can.”
If 22-time major winner Nadal navigates past the British star, his path will not get easier, with one of two Americans — Mackenzie McDonald or reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Brandon Nakashima — waiting in the second round.
Also in the Spaniard’s quarter is seventh seed Daniil Medvedev, which means a rematch of the 2022 Australian Open final between Nadal and Medvedev could be played in the last eight. Sixteenth seed Frances Tiafoe, who upset Nadal at last year’s US Open, is a potential fourth-round opponent for the lefty.
Medvedev, who has made back-to-back finals at the ‘Happy Slam’, will open against American Marcos Giron and could play Adelaide International 1 finalist Sebastian Korda, the 29th seed, in the third round.
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In the bottom half of the draw, nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic and Australian Nick Kyrgios landed in the same quarter. The 19th-seeded Kyrgios could play ninth seed Holger Rune in the third round and fifth seed Andrey Rublev in the fourth round before a quarter-final clash against Djokovic, who begins his pursuit of a record-tying 22nd major title against Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena.
Rublev’s first-round clash will be a blockbuster against his close friend, former World No. 3 and 2020 Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem. Thirteenth seed Matteo Berrettini will open against former World No. 1 Andy Murray. Berrettini defeated Murray in four sets at Flushing Meadows in 2022 and leads their ATP Head2Head series 3-1.
The winner will face home favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis or Italian shotmaker Fabio Fognini.
Second seed Casper Ruud, who advanced to his first two major finals last season, will play Czech Tomas Machac in the first round, with eighth seed Taylor Fritz, 12th seed Alexander Zverev, Berrettini, Murray and other dangerous foes in his quarter.
Sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime played the best tennis of his career at the end of 2022, and the Canadian will try to maintain that level in the first round against countryman Vasek Pospisil. The winner could play 2014 Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka in the second round.