Although it officially begins on Monday, the day of the kick-off in Melbourne, the Australian Open has already begun to be played. This Thursday, the organization of the great Australian made the draw for the main draw and from the reading between the lines –always with an asterisk, because the forecasts tend to go up in the air– it is extracted that a true Everest awaits Rafael Nadal in Melbourne. The 36-year-old Spaniard faces a theoretical layout with a more than pronounced unevenness, with a winding start, a small plain to catch air (rather tricky) and then height, a lot of height.
From the outset, the 22-major champion will face a dangerous rival, one of those who should not be allowed to take a run. The young Jack Draper, British 21 years old and on the rise, is already on the 40th step of the ranking and has consolidated a formidable rise from a year ago, when he was still competing challengers –the category that precedes the ATP tournaments–, he was the 262nd in the world and was fighting to get his head into professionalism. Subsequently, his growth allowed him to be a semifinalist in the Promising Masters Cup and beat players of the likes of Felix Auger-Aliassime, Lorenzo Musetti, Taylor Fritz, Fabio Fognini or Diego Schwartzman.
In the event that he overcomes that first obstacle, the Mallorcan – present in Australian lands since December 27 – would have a hypothetical duel with Brandon Nakashima (47th) and later another with Yoshihito Nishioka (33rd), both demanding. Overcoming the false flat he would find himself with a considerable slope, with Frances Tiafoe on the other side of the net. The American, 17th on the world list and clearly growing, eliminated him in the last edition of the US Open in the round of 16. Then he would run into the Russian Daniil Medvedev (8th), whom he overcame in the final last year, and in the semifinals he would meet the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, third favorite and executioner of the Mallorcan in 2021, or the emerging Auger-Aliassime, the seventh best racket of the moment.
Nadal will start defending the title achieved in 2021, the second in Australia, and despite the difficulty that this new challenge undertakes, he finds optimism in the fact of having avoided Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.
Three claimants to the throne
The draw diverted the Serbian (35 years old) to the other side of the box and, in this way, an explosive fight could take place between the two for the scepter. To the extraordinary endorsement of the nine trophies won at the Open, the one in Belgrade – back after the grotesque episode a year ago, when he was arrested and deported – adds the good performance offered in the run-up to the tournament. He won in Adelaide and managed to come back in the final clash against Sebastian Korda. He will debut with Roberto Carballés from Tenerife and then he could face Hugo Dellien, Grigor Dimitrov, Pablo Carreño, Andrey Rublev and Casper Ruud. That is to say, a journey without truce but a priori less thorny.
He, the Norwegian Ruud and Tsitsipas represent the threat to the throne of Carlos Alcaraz, who will not walk in Melbourne due to a muscle injury in his right leg.
Nadal, for his part, will land in the first major of the year in good physical condition and after having played two official matches, both in the United Cup: in the first he lost against the British Cameron Norrie in three sets, and in the second he lost in the same way against the Australian Alex de Miñaur, in both short films. However, the Spaniard, two in the world currently, has prioritized gaining tone in training, since he competed very little during the last six months.
In the women’s draw, the Catalan Paula Badosa (25 years old, 11th in the ranking of the WTA) fell in the same sector of the draw as the number one, the Polish Iga Swiatek, which means that he could meet her in the quarterfinals. The Spaniard will debut against the American Caty McNally (95th), although before that she is gaining sensations in Adelaide, where this Friday she has an appointment with Daria Kasatkina in the semifinals after winning on the scale prior to Beatriz Haddad Maia (7-6 (5) and 7-5). Meanwhile, Garbiñe Muguruza (57th) will have a demanding takeoff against the Belgian Elise Mertens.
THE RIVALS OF THE SPANISH
-Rafael Nadal-Jack Draper.
– Pablo Carreño-Pedro Cachín.
– Roberto Bautista-Joao Sousa.
– Roberto Carballés-Novak Djokovic.
– Jaume Munar-Dalibor Svrcina.
– Bernabe Zapata-Karen Khachanov.
– Pedro Martinez-Hubert Hurkacz.
– Albert Ramos-Maxime Cressy.
-Paula Badosa-Caty McNally.
– Garbine Muguruza-Elise Mertens.
– Nuria Parrizas-Beatriz Haddad Maia.
– Cristina Bucsa-Eva Lys.
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