The 21-year-old Jack Draper made his Australian Open debut at Rod Laver Arena on Monday. The young gun faced a legend and gave his everything despite obvious physical issues. Draper battled against a 21-time Major winner Rafael Nadal and suffered a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 loss in three hours and 41 minutes. Draper stayed in touch with Nadal for two hours and 45 minutes, trying his everything but losing steam after forging an early lead in the fourth set. Jack struggled with his movement due to cramping, and he still wanted to finish the match and allow Rafa to celebrate a proper win without a retirement. World no. 38 came to Australia without a desired off-season, experiencing two viral infections and missing five weeks of training. Jack is aware of his physical issues, working with a high-quality physio and hoping to leave them in the past for the rest of the season. Draper reached the Adelaide semi-final a couple of days before facing Nadal, losing that one and traveling to Melbourne eager to show his best tennis. He certainly did in the second set against the defending champion, almost earning a bagel against one of the greatest players ever. Draper broke Nadal four times and suffered six breaks. The young gun stayed in touch until 5-5 in the opening set before Nadal fired a forehand crosscourt winner in game 12 to steal it after 54 minutes.
Jack Draper fought until the end against Rafael Nadal.
The Briton made a fresh start in the second set, serving well and breaking Nadal in games one and three to open a 4-0 gap. Nadal struggled and faced more break points in game five. He saved them to avoid a potential bagel and get some rhythm. The Sutton native held at 15 in game eight to wrap up an impressive set and level the overall score after an hour and 47 minutes. Nadal clinched an early lead in the third set after breaking Draper at 2-1 following the youngster’s double fault. Jack struggled physically but kept fighting. He broke back in game seven thanks to Rafa’s loose forehand and locked the result at 4-4 with a fine hold. The Spaniard clinched a crucial break at 5-4 after the rival’s backhand error to wrap up the set and open two sets to one advantage. They traded breaks at the start of the fourth set, and Nadal was the only player in the rest of the duel. He stole Jack’s serve three times in a row to forge a 5-1 lead and move closer to the finish line. The Spaniard saved break points in game seven and sealed the deal after the Briton’s forehand error.
“If you are down in the fourth set after three and a half hours, it means that your rival had to work hard to get in that position. I have learned over time to stay on the court and play until the end when I have physical issues, allowing the opponent to score a proper win. No matter how strong the pain is, I’m always eager to finish the match and avoid retirement. I started having bad cramps in my rib area today, even though I thought it could be a strain. It calmed down quickly after we finished, and I believe those were cramps. That area is a bit sore, but I feel fine now. I was very undercooked while traveling to Australia. I was looking forward to a good pre-season with my fantastic new fitness trainer. However, I had two viral infections and needed antibiotics, losing five weeks. I’m proud of how I competed in Adelaide and my effort. I faced great players and surprised myself with my level. I need the patience to take the physical problems away. I have to do everything I can to put myself in a great place and move forward; I’m fully aware of that,” Jack Draper said.