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Men's draw: Nadal v Draper gets AO underway with a bang

  • Dan Imhoff

Defending champion Rafael Nadal has avoided landing in the same half of the draw as nine-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic.

DRAW: Australian Open 2023 men's singles

But the top seed will have his work cut out from the get-go against an in-form 21-year-old fellow southpaw as he bids to navigate a route to a possible third Norman Brookes Challenge Cup at Melbourne Park.

Here are five key takeaways from the men’s singles draw in 2023:

US Open rematch for Nadal?

The top seed Down Under for the first time in three years, Nadal’s bid to successfully defend an Australian Open crown for the first time begins in earnest against rising Briton Jack Draper.

If there was ever a round to draw the 36-year-old it is arguably first up but 40th-ranked Draper – through to his second tour-level semifinal in Adelaide – knows better than to assume his opponent is underdone, despite having fallen in both United Cup singles lead-up matches for Spain.

WOMEN'S DRAW: No easy route for Swiatek

MORE: Australian Open 2023 seeds set

Should Nadal progress to the second week he could run into recent United Cup champion and US Open conqueror from last year, 16th seed Frances Tiafoe, with the man he vanquished from two sets down in last year’s final, seventh seed Daniil Medvedev a projected quarterfinal foe.

Third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas remains the last person to defeat Nadal at Melbourne Park, having done so in the quarterfinals two years ago.

The Greek could meet the top seed in the semifinals should he emerge from a section that includes a potential fourth round against 15th seed Jannik Sinner and a possible quarterfinal against sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Djokovic finely tuned for majors chase

Nine-time champion Djokovic hailed his title run in Adelaide as the perfect tune-up for his Australian Open return as he continued his pursuit to draw level with Nadal on 22 majors.

The Serbian fourth seed opens against Roberto Carballes Baena and could run into another Spaniard, 14th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, in the fourth round.

RELATED: Djokovic, Sabalenka, Gauff sound warning ahead of AO 2023

Danish ninth seed Holger Rune is a name many have a close eye on after he sounded his intentions to win a major this year.

Should the 19-year-old reach his second Grand Slam quarterfinal after Paris last year, he could face Djokovic – the man he denied for last year’s Paris Masters title – in the quarterfinals.

Should the 35-year-old Djokovic push on to the semifinals, second-seeded Norwegian Casper Ruud or eighth-seeded American Taylor Fritz would be his projected seeded opponent.

Kyrgios leading Australian charge

Following his grass-court exploits to become the first Australian man to reach a Wimbledon final since Mark Philippoussis in 2003 last year, home hopes rest heavily on Nick Kyrgios at Melbourne Park.

The 27-year-old fell to Djokovic in his maiden major final and should both find form this fortnight, they could meet in a highly anticipated quarterfinal.

RELATED: Djokovic, Kyrgios go head-to-head for charity in Arena showdown

Robbed of any lead-up events on home soil due to injury, the 19th seed opens against Roman Safiullin and could meet Richard Gasquet or Ugo Humbert in the second round – two Frenchmen he has gone the distance against on the Grand Slam stages.

Ninth seed Rune presents a sizeable potential hurdle to a second-week appearance in the third round before a possible fourth round against fifth seed Andrey Rublev.

Best first rounds

Former US Open champion and 2020 Australian Open runner-up Dominic Thiem has persevered through more than his share of trials in his bid to rediscover his best following wrist surgery.

The 29-year-old Austrian managed a semifinal run in Antwerp last season but faces the uphill task of squaring off against fifth seed Rublev first up, a player he has beaten twice from six encounters.

While Rublev rounded out last season with an ATP Finals semifinal showing he has failed to win either of his first two outings in Adelaide leading in.

Five-time Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray has not reached the second week at Melbourne Park since 2017 but the Briton remains capable of causing damage on his day.

He will need to do so from the off when he faces 13th seed Matteo Berrettini at the first hurdle.

Former world No.6 Berrettini holds a 3-1 record against the 35-year-old and has regained valuable matchplay after picking up three wins from five United Cup matches leading in.


Andy Murray at the Tennis Plays for Peace event
A dangerous floater

Crowd favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis has continued to thrill at home in Adelaide with his upset of world No.6 Rublev as he bids to defend his maiden title from last season.

The 26-year-old scored an impressive win over Maxime Cressy in the Adelaide 1 event last week before testing Jannik Sinner and admitted his serve was on song ahead of his seventh Australian Open.

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It has to be if he hopes to pass the second round for the first time.

Kokkinakis opens against Italian former world No.9 Fabio Fognini, an opponent he has beaten in both previous showdowns.

Victory there would likely pit him against another Italian, No.13 seed Berrettini, a player he has yet to meet, with second seed Ruud a possible fourth round opponent should both advance as far.