Rafael Nadal will look to clinch his third Australian Open and overall 23rd Grand Slam title when the first Major of the year begins in Melbourne on January 16.
World No. 2 Nadal is the top seed in the men’s singles draw in the absence of compatriot and World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, who is out due to an injury.
Defending champion Nadal begins his campaign with a first-round clash against Great Britain’s Jack Draper.
Here’s the possible path to a third Australian Open title for Nadal:
First Round: Jack Draper (Great Britain)
Nadal’s opening-round opponent is Jack Draper, the 21-year-old from Great Britain. Like the Spaniard, Draper is also left-handed. World No. 40 Draper made his Grand Slam debut in a first-round defeat against Novak Djokovic at the 2021 Wimbledon. Draper and Nadal have never played against each other.
Second Round: Brandon Nakashima (USA)
A win against Draper could set up a second-round clash for Nadal with American Brandon Nakashima, another 21-year-old. It will be a first time meeting between the Spaniard and World No. 47 Nakashima, who won his maiden tour-level title in San Diego in 2022. Nakashima’s best performance at a Major came at 2022 Wimbledon where he reached the Round of 16 before losing to eventual runner-up Nick Kyrgios in five sets.
Third Round: Yoshihito Nishioka (Japan)
Nadal could face his first seeded opponent in Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in the third round. Nishioka, seeded 31st, had his best performance at the Australian Open in 2020 when he reached the third round. The 27-year-old from Japan, who is ranked 33rd in the world, has faced Nadal twice on the ATP Tour and has lost the battle between the two left-handers on both occasions.
Round of 16: Frances Tiafoe (USA)
Nadal’s potential fourth-round opponent is Frances Tiafoe, the 16th seeded American. The 24-year-old Tiafoe had the season of his life in 2022 where he beat the Spaniard on his way to a maiden semifinal appearance at the US Open. He also made the tour-level finals in Tokyo and Estoril, and was a member of Team World which won its first Laver Cup title. World No. 17 Tiafoe began 2023 by winning the inaugural United Cup with USA. Nadal has a 2-1 head-to-head record against Tiafoe. In their one and only meeting at the Australian Open, Nadal beat Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals in 2019.
Quarterfinal: Daniil Medvedev (Russia)
Nadal could have a possible quarterfinal clash against seventh-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev in a rematch of last year’s Australian Open final when the Spaniard came from two sets down to clinch the title. World No. 8 Medvedev had also reached the final in 2021 when he lost to Djokovic in straight sets. Nadal and Medvedev have faced each other six times with the Russian’s sole victory coming in the semifinals of the 2020 ATP Finals.
Semifinal: Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece)
Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece could face each other in this year’s semifinal. World No. 4 Tsitsipas is seeded third at the 2023 edition. Nadal and Tsitsipas have played against each other nine times previously with the Spaniard leading the head-to-head record at 7-2. As far as Australian Open meetings are concerned, the head-to-head record between Nadal and Tsitsipas stands at one-all. While Nadal won the first meeting 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 in the 2019 semifinal, Tsitsipas came from two sets down to beat the Spaniard 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 7-5 in the 2021 quarterfinal.
Final: Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
Nadal could face nine-time champion Djokovic in the summit clash of this year’s Australian Open. The Serbian, who is seeded fourth, returns to Melbourne a year after being deported from the country on the eve of the 2022 tournament due to being unvaccinated against Covid-19. Nadal and Djokovic have met a record 59 times on the ATP Tour with the Serbian leading the head-to-head record at 30-29. At the Australian Open, the two have met twice - both times in the final. Djokovic won a marathon 2012 summit clash 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in five hours and 53 minutes. Seven years later, the Serbian had a more comfortable 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory over the Spaniard in the final.
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