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Rafael Nadal wins opening match at Australian Open, ties Ivan Lendl for third-most career wins for a man in Open Era
The Spaniard got the 1,068th win of his career with a four-set victory over Britain's Jack Draper on Rod Laver Arena.
Published Jan 16, 2023
After a historic 2022 season that included winning the 21st and 22nd Grand Slam titles of his career at the Australian Open and Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal is already creating more history in 2023.
By defeating Jack Draper in the first round in Melbourne on Monday, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, Nadal recorded the 1,068th win of his career, tying Ivan Lendl for third-most career wins for a man in the Open Era:
MOST CAREER WINS FOR A MAN IN OPEN ERA (tour-level):
1,274: Jimmy Connors
1,251: Roger Federer
1,068: Rafael Nadal
1,068: Ivan Lendl
1,036: Novak Djokovic
951: Guillermo Vilas
908: Ilie Nastase
883: John McEnroe
870: Andre Agassi
801: Stefan Edberg
Nadal couldn’t have asked for a more dangerous first-round opponent than Draper, though—not only was the 21-year-old British lefty only five spots out the seeds, but he came into the Australian Open with momentum, too, having reached the semifinals in Adelaide last week. He rose to a new career-high of No. 38 today.
And the match was a brawl from the start. After sneaking out the first break of the day to close out a 54-minute first set, Nadal watched on as Draper caught fire, storming out to a 4-0, double-break lead in the second set. He closed the set out a few holds later.
The momentum shifts didn’t end there. Nadal jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the third set only for Draper to get the break back and close back in to 4-all. Then, after holding for 5-4, Nadal broke for the set.
The Brit broke right back in the opening game of the fourth set, but from there it was all Nadal, as the Spaniard reeled off the last six games of the match to seal a three-hour, 41-minute triumph.
In his on-court interview, Nadal was asked about returning to the site of his record-breaking 21st career Grand Slam title.
“Of course, last year has been without a doubt one of the most emotional tournaments of my tennis career, no doubt about that. But unfortunately that passed, so we need to keep working,” he said.
“I’m super happy to be back in Australia one more time. It’s, like, my 19th season in the professional tour, so I’m very excited about this new beginning. Just super happy to be back here in Rod Laver Arena, and with a victory that I needed. The last couple of months haven’t been easy for me—hopefully this victory’s going to help me.”
He was also asked where he felt his level was at today.
“Well, if we put in perspective all the situation I went through the last six months, it has been a very positive start. I played against one of the toughest opponents possible in the first round being seeded.
"He’s young, he has the power, and I think he has a great future.”
Awaiting Nadal in the second round will be No. 65-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald, who edged countryman Brandon Nakashima in a four-hour, two-minute battle, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1), 1-6, 6-7 (10), 6-4.
Nadal defeated McDonald in the pair’s only previous meeting in the second round of Roland Garros in 2020, 6-1, 6-0, 6-3.