Rafael Nadal survived a massive scare against Great Britain’s Jack Draper to win in four sets, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, on Rod Laver Arena.
Nadal was made to work extremely hard by the impressive Draper, who was cruelled by cramps for the majority of the contest.
Not easily rattled, the No.1 seed and reigning Open champion was also distracted by a bizarre blunder with his kit.
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During a break after the seventh game of the first set, Nadal returned to his players bench to discover the next racquet in his playing sequence had disappeared from its spot.
After rummaging around his things, Nadal reported the missing racquet to the chair umpire – claiming it had mistakenly been taken by a ballboy to be re-stringed.
“I need the racquet back,” Nadal could be heard saying.
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“They’ve taken his racquet that he’s using at the moment, [the one] that he wants,” Mark Petchey explained in commentary for Nine.
“Hopefully they haven’t cut the strings out of it.
“You don’t often get a first in a Rafa match after all these years but that is definitely the first [time] that that would have happened.”
“Goodness me that’s a big mistake … he knows the tension, he knows the sequence he wants to use his racquets in,” added John Fitzgerald.
“It’s worth a bit to that racquet, he may never see that again. It might be [now] on the streets of Melbourne somewhere.”
Speaking post-match, Nadal described the mishap as a “funny situation”.
“Normally I have the numbers of the racquet under control so I say, ‘I need the stringer’ but I needed the stringer for the other racquet. He picked the racquet that I was ready to play [with],” he told Eurosport.
“But yeah, no problem at all.”
Nadal was definitely well below his best, but as he has done many times over his illustrious career, the Spanish warrior somehow found a way.
“There will be the reality that his tennis isn’t where it needs to be just yet,” Petchey said on commentary.
However, speaking afterwards, Nadal adopted a realistic outlook on his form given his recent injury issues.
Rafa reflects on ‘tough’ run
“Last year was without the doubt one of the most emotional tournaments of my career, but unfortunately that’s passed and we need to keep working,” he said of last year’s Open, which he won.
“If we put in perspective all the situations I’ve been through in the last six months, it’s been a very positive start.”
Nadal was also very complimentary of his opponent, saying: “He’s got a great future in front of him”.
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