Still injured, young Jack Draper refuses to budge. The boy has guts and fights until the last pitch, which goes long and certifies the victory of Rafael Nadal: 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 and 6-1, in 3h 41m. In this debut in Melbourne, where he defends the title achieved last year, the Spaniard wins gold and signs autographs happily, because he goes to the locker room with his spirits growing after a generous recharge. He had not won an official match since November 17, then against the Norwegian Casper Ruud in Turin, already eliminated from the Masters; he accumulated six defeats in his last seven games; the adversary threatened and complies in the onslaught, a nuisance from start to finish. However, the day is most productive.
“This victory is going to help me. It has been a very positive start, against a very tough opponent who has a great future”, values the man from Manacor, who will face the American Macenzie McDonald, 27, 65th in the ATP on Wednesday and with whom he already crossed at Roland Garros three years ago. Another good opportunity to continue gaining momentum after a demanding, ruminated and curvilinear debut, translated into a good mood shot.
The young Draper proposes and does not wrinkle, he plays with personality. Before jumping onto the track, when Nadal approaches him and wraps him with all his mystique from behind, the Briton takes his time to finalize the equipment and once on the concrete, he rebuts with good arguments. He is 21 years old and is 38th in the world, after having overcome a thorny period due to injuries and having accelerated significantly last year, climbing from 262nd place; He offered good tracks as a junior and in July his license plate was definitively taken when he swiped a set from Novak Djokovic himself on the Wimbledon mat, saying that he has come this far to be noticed. And so it is. There is a tennis player.
From the outset, Nadal closes a neat first set, but there is a crumb in the rallies and the script is far from unidirectional. The duel goes on evenly, at a rather mushy pace because this Australian ball is lazy – “they are of worse quality, after a few hits they lose pressure”, the Mallorcan described in the prelude to the tournament – and it is difficult for him to pick up speed; The two lefties hit, but with great difficulty they get winning shots no matter how much they raise their arms and unload. There is no spark, there is no electricity. It is a day for head and blackboard, not to hesitate, not to take false steps and even less to open the door because the English, erre that erre, is very grateful and if they invite him, he accepts courtesy.
Burdens and solutions
In any case, in the resolution of that first sleeve he sins of naivety, when throwing an untimely and poorly executed drop shot that Nadal faces smacking his lips to decide the partial in his favor. Until then, the 22-major champion has offered correction, a couple of interesting strokes with the forehand and a good tone with the serve, which declines alarmingly in the continuation; Of the 82% obtained with the former and 88% with the latter, he retains only 57% and 40%, respectively. The Spaniard deflates as if he had suffered a low blood sugar and is uncomfortable, accuses the lack of rhythm; Things don’t work out for him and the pulse becomes entangled against his interests.
The four drops that suddenly fall (this is Melbourne) stop the game for a few minutes; a ball is punctured and the ball boys make a big mess when it comes time to circulate the others; it rains, but it doesn’t rain, and the judge decides to resume the match when just enough time has elapsed for both players to remain cold; a baby cries, then another and the third completes the chorus, except for a couple of little birds that usually peek out of the central Melbourne Park; the balls fall apart with a couple of games and this one is worthless, the other one is not worth it either and the next one even less so; and, coincidence or not, the brilliant sunrise (yes, this is Melbourne) coincides with the reaction of the Spaniard, more in tune and 3-1 up after the break.
Nadal, in reflective orange, takes on better color but only at times, his sneakers come and go and Draper takes advantage of it to activate the debate and put more pressure. The man from Sutton, with a more than considerable body -1.93 tall and 85 kilos-, moves well and argues non-stop, which means two things: on the one hand, trouble and capsizing for the Spaniard, required at each point ; on the other, gradually recovering sensations, automatisms and the necessary mechanisms to compete at full throttle after the intermittency of the last half year. Nadal overcomes stressful phases and at the same time removes rust; the bodies have memory and theirs requires continuous movement to recharge the competitive instinct. He suffers, but deep down he is grateful. Faced with adversity, he responds with solutions.
Two sets to one above, well resolved the tangle that has formed in the third and replicated the break that Draper achieves at the beginning of the fourth, the number two in the world takes advantage of the liveliness that the sun brings to the ball –more bounce, more spin, more– and also the physical firecracker of the rival, who when going to return towards the corridor makes a gesture and brakes. That’s where it all ends. Abdominal injury and eroded from so much coming and going, prey to overexertion, the Briton breaks but does not lean. Despite the pain, he continued to the end with a minimum kick and the Australian stands rewarded him with an ovation. Indeed, laudable resistance for Draper and prosperous takeoff for Nadal.
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