Rafael Nadal got down a break 1-0 in the fourth set but recovered to win the last six games to defeat Jack Draper 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the Australian Open first round. It was Nadal’s first win of the season.
“Super-happy to be back here in Australia one more time. It’s like the 19th season in the professional tour so very excited about this new beginning,” Nadal said after he 3 hour, 41 minute affair.
“I needed a victory, so that’s the main thing. Doesn’t matter the way. The most important thing today is a victory against a tough opponent.
“I think I did things well. So satisfied with the victory because that gives me the chance to play again.”
The 21-year-old Draper was able to bang balls around the court against the defending champion who was missing easy balls at times. But late in the match, Draper was ailing with cramps and fatigue. However the quick break in the fourth gave Nadal a brief scare.
But in the end, with temperatures just around 80F, Draper could hardly serve and move as his lack of condition caught up.
“Real honor to play against him, someone I’ve idolized growing up,” Draper said. “To go toe-to-toe with him on a big court like that is special.
“I think I can take away the fact that my tennis is getting closer and closer and physically I’ll be first to say I’m still a work in progress.”
Nadal will now meet American Mackenzie McDonald who outlasted his fellow-Californian Brandon Nakashima in five sets.
Runner-up the last two years, Daniil Medvedev made an emphatic start hammer American Marcus Giron 6-0, 6-1, 6-2 in 96 minutes.
“I am really happy with the match,” Medvedev said. “Marcos is a tough opponent, so to beat him with this score in the first round at a Slam is great. I am really happy with my level and I am looking forward to the next round.”
Medvedev, who has won 13 of his last 15 matches in Melbourne, now meets Australian John Millman in a first-time collision.
“He is a great player, especially here in Australia,” Medvedev said. “He is a great player. He beat Roger at the US Open when Roger was at the top, so he is capable of playing some great tennis. I am going to have to play my best as well.”
Three-time semifinalist Stefanos Tsitsipas also moved onto the second round defeating Quentin Halys 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(6).
Other winners were Jannik Sinner, Frances Tiafoe, Hubert Hurkacz, Karen Khachanov and the Canadians Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov.
Stan Wawrinka lost in five to Alex Molcan and Borna Coric fell to rising Czech Jiri Lehecka.
Nick Kyrgios also withdrew from the event with a tear in his left knee. He will undergo surgery.
On Tuesday, 9-time champion Novak Djokovic makes his return. Alex Zverev plays his first Slam since the French Open and Andy Murray squares off against Matteo Berrettini in an afternoon blockbuster in the heat.
No. 2 seed Casper Ruud closes out MCA.
TUESDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena – 11:00 AM
SABALENKA, Aryna  vs. MARTINCOVA, Tereza (CZE)
SEBOV, Katherine (CAN) vs. GARCIA, Caroline (FRA) 
BERRETTINI, Matteo (ITA)  vs. MURRAY, Andy (GBR)
ZIDANSEK, Tamara (SLO) vs. JABEUR, Ons (TUN) 
CARBALLES BAENA, Roberto (ESP) vs. DJOKOVIC, Novak (SRB) 
Margaret Court Arena – 11:00 AM
MUGURUZA, Garbiñe (ESP) vs. MERTENS, Elise (BEL) 
WANG, Xiyu (CHN) vs. PLISKOVA, Karolina (CZE) 
Not before: 2:30 PM
VARILLAS, Juan Pablo (PER) vs. ZVEREV, Alexander (GER) 
TOMOVA, Viktoriya (BUL) vs. BENCIC, Belinda (SUI) 
MACHAC, Tomas (CZE) vs. RUUD, Casper (NOR) 
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