Rafael Nadal Faces Draper In Australian Open Opener, Djokovic Drawn In Opposite Half - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Faces Draper In Australian Open Opener, Djokovic Drawn In Opposite Half

The defending champion has been handed a tough draw at Melbourne Park.



Rafael Nadal of Team Spain during practice ahead of the 2023 United Cup at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre in Sydney on Wednesday, December 28, 2022. PHOTO CREDIT Tennis Australia/ ATP, PETER STAPLES

Rafael Nadal faces a testing start to his campaign at the Australian Open after being drawn against British rising star Jack Draper in the first round. 

Nadal, who is seeking to win a record 23rd Grand Slam title, is yet to win a match in 2023 after suffering two losses at the United Cup to Alex de Minaur and Matteo Berrettini. In contrast, Draper has already recorded four wins this season and is through to the semi-finals of this week’s Adelaide International 2 after defeating third seed Karen Khachanov in straight sets. Over the past 12 months, 21-year-old Draper has risen 225 places in the rankings to 40th in the world. 

Historically top seed Nadal has never lost in the first round of the Australian Open. Speaking to reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday, the Spaniard said he is happy with his preparations for Melbourne Park despite his winless start to 2023. 

“Well, it’s true that the last couple of months I was not able to play much tennis and at the beginning of the season I lost two matches in Sydney, but honestly, I am not unhappy with the preparation,” he said. 
“I need to win matches for sure. But the preparation is going quite well, practising a lot and I think I am in good shape.
“Then you need to demonstrate that in the matches, in the official tournaments.
“But I’m confident that if I am able to have this last week of positive practices, why not?”

Later in the draw, the 35-year-old could play 2022 ATP Next Gen champion Brandon Nakashima in round two followed potentially by a clash with 31st seed Yoshihito Nishioka. Then in the last 16, there is a chance he could lock horns with US Open semi-finalist Frances Tiafoe. 

Outside of the French Open, Nadal is yet to win the same Grand Slam two years in a row. 

Novak Djokovic will begin his quest for a historic 10th Australian Open title against Roberto Carballés Baena who has only ever won four main draw matches in major events in his career. The Serbian has won 34 consecutive matches on Australian soil since 2019 but was absent from the tournament last year after getting deported from the country. Djokovic, who is seeded fourth in the draw and is in the opposite half to Nadal, won his 92nd Tour title in Adelaide last week. 

In recent days there have been some questions over the current fitness of the former world No.1 after he pulled out of his training session with Daniil Medvedev. Djokovic has been dealing with a hamstring issue in recent days but has repeatedly played down it’s significance. 

“I just felt it pulling and I didn’t want to risk anything worse,” he told 9news Melbourne. 
“I played a set and apologised to him [Medvedev] and he was understanding. I just want to avoid any bigger scares before the Australian Open.”

Second seed Casper Ruud will take on Czech world No.115 Tomas Machac in his opening match. The Norwegian is hoping to continue his fine run in results at major tournaments after reaching the final in two out of the three he played in last year. In his section, he could play Jenson Brooksby in the second round and a showdown with Matteo Berrettini in the last 16 possibly awaits. 

As for the other top-ranking players in the men’s draw, Stefanos Tsitsipas faces Quentin Halys, Daniil Medvedev faces Marcos Giron and Felix Auger-Aliassime will lock horns with compatriot Vasek Pospisil in their opening matches. 

Former US Open champion Dominic Thiem will be the first test for Andrey Rublev in what could be a highly intriguing match. Thiem only managed to enter the main draw with the use of a wildcard. Other mouthwatering first round clashes include Andy Murray against 13th seed Berrettini. 

The Australian Open main draw will get underway on Monday. This year’s singles champion will win 2000 ranking points and earn AUS$2.975M in prize money. 

The full Australian Open draw can be viewed HERE.


Wrist Injury Threatening To End Holger Rune’s Olympic Dream



Holger Rune will have a second medical opinion on Monday before deciding if he is fit enough to play at the Olympic Games, according to his team. 

The Danish world No.17 recently retired from his quarter-final match at the Hamburg Open due to a knee injury. The hope at the time was that his withdrawal would be just a precautionary measure ahead of the Olympics. However, he is also dealing with a second issue that appears to be more serious.

According to TV 2 Sport, Rune has been struggling with a wrist issue and underwent a scan on Sunday which his mother Aneke says ‘doesn’t look promising.’ Aneke is also the manager of her son’s career. Rune’s Olympic dreams now rest on the outcome of a second medical expert that he will visit tomorrow who has a better understanding of the sport. 

“Unfortunately, it does not look promising after the first medical opinion after the review of the scan of the wrist,” Aneke Rune told TV 2 Sport.

“We are waiting for two tennis-specific doctors who will give a second opinion tomorrow (Monday). Tennis wrists look different from regular wrists, so we’ll hold out hope for one more day.” 

Rune is one of three Danish players entered into the Olympic tennis event along with Caroline Wozniacki and Clara Tauson. The country has only won one medal in tennis before which was at the 1912 Games when Sofie Castenschiold won silver in the women’s indoor singles event. 

So far this season, the 21-year-old has won 27 matches on the Tour but is yet to claim a title. He reached the final of the Brisbane International and then the semi-finals of three more events. In the Grand Slams, he made it to the fourth round of the French Open and Wimbledon. 

It is not known when a final decision regarding Rune’s participation in Paris will be made.

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Hubert Hurkacz Undergoes ‘Knee Procedure’ Ahead of Olympic Bid



Poland’s top player on the ATP Tour is not giving up on his dream of winning a medal at the Olympic Games despite recently undergoing a medical procedure.

World No.7 Hubert Hurkacz suffered a knee injury during his second round clash at Wimbledon against France’s Arthur Fils. In the fourth set tiebreak of their clash, Hurkacz dived for a shot but landed badly on his knee and required on-court medical attention. He then played two more points before retiring from the match. 

In a social media post published on Wednesday, the  27-year-old confirmed he underwent a procedure on his knee earlier this week but didn’t provide any further details.  Although Hurkacz has stated his intention to play at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, where the tennis event will be held on the clay at Roland Garros. 

“I had a knee procedure this Monday, but I’m feeling better already and my team and are dedicating extensive time each day to the rehab process.” He wrote on Instagram. 

“It’s a dream for every athlete to represent their country at the Olympics, and I want to make sure I am fully fit and ready before making the final decision to step on court. The aim is not only to participate, but to win a medal for my country.”

So far this season Hurkacz has won 34 out of 48 matches played on the Tour. He won the Estoril Open in April and was runner-up to Jannik Sinner in Halle. 

The Olympic tennis event is scheduled to begin a week Saturday on July 27th. Poland is yet to win a medal in the event but expectations are high with women’s No.1 Iga Swiatek also taking part. 

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Motivation, Pressure And Expectations – Novak Djokovic Targets History At Wimbledon



image via x.com/wimbledon

Novak Djokovic has broken numerous records throughout his career but he still feels the pressure of trying to make history in the sport. 

The world No.2 is through to his 10th Wimbledon final where he will play Carlos Alcaraz, who beat him at this stage of the tournament 12 months ago. There is plenty on the line for the Serbian who could equal Roger Federer’s record for most men’s titles won at SW19 and break the overall record for most major singles won in the sport if he triumphs over the Spaniard. Djokovic currently has 24 Grand Slam trophies to his name which is the same as Margaret Court, who won some of her titles before the Open Era started. 

“Obviously I’m aware that Roger [Federer] holds eight Wimbledons. I hold seven. History is on the line.” Djokovic said on Friday after beating Lorenzo Musetti.

“Also, the 25th potential Grand Slam. Of course, it serves as a great motivation, but at the same time it’s also a lot of pressure and expectations.”

Coming into Wimbledon, there had been doubts over Djokovic’s form after he underwent surgery to treat a knee injury he suffered at the French Open. However, he has defied the odds to reach the final. His run has also seen him beat Alexi Popyrin and Holger Rune before getting a walkover in the quarter-finals from Alex de Minaur, who sustained an injury during the tournament. Then on Friday, he overcame a spirited Musetti in three sets. 

Despite the challenge, Djokovic has insisted that his expectations to do well are always high no matter what the situation is. During what has been a roller-coaster first six months of the season, he is yet to win a title this year or beat a player currently ranked in the top 10. Although he will achieve both of these if her beats Alcaraz on Sunday. 

“Every time I step out on the court now, even though I’m 37 and competing with the 21-year-olds, I still expect myself to win most of the matches, and people expect me to win, whatever, 99% of the matches that I play.” He said.

“I always have to come out on the court and perform my best in order to still be at the level with Carlos [Alcaraz] or Jannik [Sinner] or Sascha [Zverev] or any of those guys, Daniil [Medvedev]. 

“This year hasn’t been that successful for me. It’s probably the weakest results the first six months I’ve had in many years. That’s okay. I had to adapt and accept that and really try to find also way out from the injury that I had and kind of regroup.”

Djokovic hopes that a Wimbledon win will help turn his season around like it has done in the past for him. 

“Wimbledon historically there’s been seasons where I wasn’t maybe playing at a desired level, but then I would win a Wimbledon title and then things would change.” He commented.

“For example, that was the case in 2018 when I had elbow surgery earlier in the year, dropped my rankings out of top 20, losing in fourth round of Australian Open, I think it was quarters of Roland-Garros, and just not playing the tennis that I want to play. Then I won Wimbledon and then won US Open and then later on became No.1 very soon.”

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Alcaraz is hoping to stop Djokovic in his tracks. Should he defend his title at Wimbledon, he would become the first player outside the Big Three to do so since Pete Sampras more than 20 years ago. He has won their only previous meeting on the grass but trails their head-to-head 3-2. 

“I’m sure he knows what he has to do to beat me,” said Alcaraz.

“But I’m ready to take that challenge and I’m ready to do it well.”

When the two players take to the court to play in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic will be 15 years and 348 days older than Alcaraz. Making it the largest age gap in a men’s Grand Slam final since the 1974 US Open. Whoever is victorious will receive £2,700,000 in prize money. 

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