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SportsAustralian Open: Nadal, Swiatek Survive Early Tests, Kyrgios Pulls Out

Australian Open: Nadal, Swiatek Survive Early Tests, Kyrgios Pulls Out

Defending champion Rafael Nadal shrugged off a rocky build-up to reach the Australian Open second round with a four-set win over ailing Jack Draper on Monday after home favourite Nick Kyrgios dropped a Day One bombshell by pulling out injured.
Top women’s seed Iga Swiatek also made heavy work of her opening match against a rising young talent before the Pole found her rhythm to beat German Jule Niemeier 6-4 7-5.
Spaniard Nadal came into Melbourne Park with only one victory since the US Open and was on the back foot against Draper on a warm and humid afternoon at Rod Laver Arena before cramping trouble struck the 21-year-old Briton.
With Draper reduced to a groaning wreck, Nadal finished strongly to close out the match 7-5 2-6 6-4 6-1.
A year on from the “Miracle of Melbourne”, when Nadal came back from two sets down to topple Daniil Medvedev in a classic final, the Spaniard was happy to get through to his next match against American Mackenzie McDonald.
“If we put it in the perspective of what I’ve been through in the last six months, it was a positive start,” the 36-year-old said.
“I played against one of the toughest opponents possible in the first round. He’s young, he has the power and I think he has a great future in front (of him).”
Nadal’s win will have been a relief for organisers, with one of the biggest draw cards in Kyrgios bowing out because of a knee problem on the eve of his opener.
Novak Djokovic was denied the opportunity to win a record-extending 10th Australian Open title last year after his deportation but he returns to Rod Laver Arena holding no grudges when he begins his campaign in Melbourne today.
The Serbian was deported on the eve of the 2022 tournament due to his Covid vaccine stance but the 35-year-old has let bygones be bygones as he looks ahead to his clash with Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena.
“In a way, if I do hold grudges, probably if I’m not able to move on, I wouldn’t be here,” said Djokovic, who received a warm welcome from the crowd last week during a practice match with Nick Kyrgios.
“Also I have to say that the amount of positive experiences I had in Australia overwhelms the negative experience last year.”
Djokovic’s win streak in Australia stands at 33 matches since his last loss in the Australian Open fourth round in 2018 but he is wary of a hamstring problem that gave him a sleepless night ahead of the final at the tune-up tournament in Adelaide.
“I’ve been struggling with that a bit, to be honest, the last seven days. But it’s hopefully not the major concern,” he said, adding that he has been training cautiously.
Winning the title in Melbourne will also make Djokovic the second player to win one Grand Slam at least 10 times after Nadal’s 14 titles at Roland Garros.


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