Rafael Nadal wins but Nick Kyrgios suffers Australian Open heartbreak

Rafael Nadal began his Australian Open title defense with a four-set win over Britain’s Jack Draper on Monday as home hope Nick Kyrgios retired with injury without hitting a ball.

In the women’s draw, top seed Iga Swiatek survived a tough test, while Jessica Pegula and teenage prodigy Coco Gauff were both convincing winners on the first day of action.

Spanish giant Nadal, 36, has been in poor form by his incredibly high standards, losing six of his last seven matches stretching back to a last-16 loss at the US Open.

Fast-rising Draper, 21, the 22-time Grand Slam winner faced a tough test to start his campaign at a steamy Melbourne Park.

The top seed recovered from a second-set wobble — and a bizarre incident when a ball boy accidentally took his racket — to defeat the 38th-ranked Briton 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 at Rod Laver Arena.

Nadal, who recently became a father, plays against American Mackenzie McDonald in the second round.

“Very exciting, a new start, just super-happy to get back at Rod Laver with the win I needed,” he said after knocking off Draper.

“The last few months have not been easy for me.”

Nadal was on court when the talented but temperamental Australian Kyrgios called a hastily arranged press conference to announce that he was out of the tournament with a knee injury.

“I’m devastated, obviously,” said the Wimbledon finalist, who was considered an outside bet to win a first Grand Slam crown.

“I’ve had some great tournaments here, I won the doubles last year and probably played the tennis of my life going into this tournament.

“I’m just exhausted from everything, and (it’s) obviously pretty brutal.”

The first Grand Slam this year has already lost several stars in the preparations.

Injured world number one Carlos Alcaraz and two-time Melbourne champion Naomi Osaka — who is expecting her first child — are among the other players missing.

Nine-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic, who was detained and deported ahead of last year’s tournament after refusing a Covid vaccination, begins his bid for the title on Tuesday.

Other winners on Monday included third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas and sixth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime, who saw off a persistent Vasek Pospisil in an all-Canada clash.

Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, a losing finalist in 2021 and 2022, stepped up his bid to improve by downing Marcos Giron in straight sets. But 21st seed Borna Ćorić lost to Czech player Jiri Lehecka in two sets.

In the women’s draw, hot favorite Swiatek was far from her best against Jula Niemeier, but got the job done, 6-4, 7-5.

“Honestly, I wanted to focus on myself because I know that Jule serves amazing and she really pushed, put me under pressure,” said Swiatek, who won just 49 percent of her first serves.

“So I’m pretty happy that I got through this match because the first round is always tough and I guess having an opponent like Jula makes it even more complicated.”

The Pole, who is chasing the Australian Open crown alongside major titles at the US Open and Roland Garros, next plays Colombia’s Camila Osorio.

The in-form Pegula outclassed 161st-ranked Romanian Jaqueline Cristian 6-0, 6-1 in a 59-minute flurry to signal her intention.

American Gauff was just as explosive in her run to the second round with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Czech Katerina Siniakova.

The 18-year-old Gauff now faces a thrilling clash against former US Open champion Emma Raducana. It will be the first meeting between Gauff and 20-year-old Raducan, two rising stars of women’s tennis.

“I’m really looking forward to this match,” he told Raducanu. “I’m very ready for it. Coco has obviously done a lot of great things and she’s playing well.

“I think we’re both good, young players, we’re both improving — we’re really part of the next generation of tennis — it’s going to be a great match.”

Another American, Danielle Collins, last year’s defeated finalist in Melbourne, also made it through safely.

Greek sixth seed Maria Sakkari also won, with Victoria Azarenka beating Sofia Kenin in a battle between two former Australian Open winners.

But two seeds fell at the first hurdle, 25th seed Czech Marie Bouzkova and American 28th seed Amanda Anisimova.

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