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Spare racket in hand, Rafael Nadal downs Britain’s Jack Draper

Jan 13, 2023; Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Rafael Nadal of Spain hits a shot during a practice session on Rod Laver Arena  at Melbourne Park. Mandatory Credit: Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports

Rafael Nadal advanced in the Australian Open over Britain’s Jack Draper on Monday, but the victory wasn’t precisely as designed.

Nadal’s preferred racket was erroneously taken from courtside by a ballboy, who removed the wrong racket and took it to the on-site stringer prior to the start of the match.

After a delay in the first set with Nadal leading 4-3, during which the 22-time Grand Slam winner bellowed an apology to Draper, the 36-year-old fought for a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory.

“Normally, I have the number of the rackets under control so I said I need the stringer, but I need the stringer for the other racket,” Nadal explained post-match. “So [the ball boy] picked the racket I was ready to play with. But no problem at all.”

Draper was slowed by muscle cramps in the match and said he is “a work in progress.”

The same might be a fair assessment of Nadal, who came into the Australian Open with a shaky record and admits he’s still proving his own health.

“I need to build again this confidence with myself with victories. But it’s true that I have been losing more than usual,” Nadal said.

Nadal advanced to the second round to face American Mackenzie McDonald, who is ranked 65th in the world.

Other first-round winners included seventh-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev (6-0, 6-1, 6-2) and third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.

Italian Lorenzo Musetti, who lost to Draper in November at the ATP Masters, was upset by South African Lloyd Harris, who returned from a six-month hiatus to take the five-set marathon 6-4, 6-1, 6-7, 2-6, 7-6 (10).

–Field Level Media