Rafael Nadal faces a challenging opponent in the first round as he starts his title defense at the Australian Open.

Rafael Nadal faces a challenging opponent in the first round as he starts his title defense at the Australian Open.

CNN  — 

Reigning champion Rafael Nadal is set to take on up-and-coming English player Jack Draper in the first round of the Australian Open as he seeks to defend his 2022 title and add to his collection of grand slam wins.

Carlos Alcaraz, currently ranked as the top player in the world, may not be able to compete in the tournament due to an injury. However, the comeback of Novak Djokovic to the competition will make it challenging for Rafael Nadal to defend his championship title.

Unfortunately, Thursday’s lottery did not favor the 22-time winner of major tournaments. If he is able to defeat Draper, who is currently ranked 40th in the world, he may have to face off against the reigning champion of the Next Gen ATP Finals, Brandon Nakashima.

Possibly in store for the Spaniard in the future is a potential quarterfinal match against Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev was Nadal’s competitor in last year’s thrilling five-set final. Medvedev aims to reach his third consecutive final after being defeated by Djokovic in 2021 and by Nadal in 2022.

There is a possibility of a rematch between Djokovic and Nadal in the 2021 final, as they are in different halves of the draw. Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open champion, will play against Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena in the first round and has a potential matchup with Australian player Nick Kyrgios in the quarter-finals.

One year after being deported from Australia, Djokovic returns for the tournament. He was deemed a threat to public health and order by former immigration minister Alex Hawke due to his status as a celebrity athlete who had spoken out against mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations. This made him a potential “icon” for the anti-vaccine movement.

The minister’s choice to expel the former top-ranked player resulted in a three-year ban from returning.

Kyrgios, seeded 19th, is among the exciting players in a section of the draw that also features Holger Rune, Dan Evans, and Andrey Rublev.

Rublev, who is ranked fifth, entered the Australian Open as a top contender. However, he was unexpectedly defeated by world No. 110 Thanasi Kokkinakis from Adelaide 2 on Wednesday. In his first round, Rublev will be playing against former world No. 3 and 2020 Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem in an exciting match.

Andy Murray is set to play against the 13th-seeded Matteo Berrettini in the upcoming round. Berrettini previously defeated the three-time grand slam champion in four sets at the 2022 US Open and has a record of three wins out of four ATP meetings against Murray.

Świątek is the first person representing Poland to win a major singles title and was voted Polish Sports Personality of the Year in 2022.

It’s anyone’s game without Barty.

After Ashleigh Barty, the previous champion, retired from the sport last year, Iga Światek has been dominating and is now the top-ranked player in the tournament. She will face German Jule Niemeier in her opening match, but there is a possibility of a thrilling quarterfinal match against American rising star Coco Gauff.

The 18-year-old sensation enters the competition in impressive condition, having claimed victory at the ASB Classic without losing a single set. She is aiming to continue her outstanding 2022 performance, which included reaching the final at Roland Garros where she was defeated by Światek.

Before the quarterfinal match against the top contender, Gauff will first have to face Emma Raducanu, the 2021 US Open champion. However, Raducanu is currently racing against the clock to heal from an ankle injury for their second round match.

In the second half of the bracket, Ons Jabeur, the second-ranked player, begins her 2023 season with the goal of surpassing her performance from last year by winning a grand slam. The Tunisian athlete reached the finals of both Wimbledon and the US Open, but unfortunately came up short in her quest to become the first woman from the Arab and North African region to win a major tournament.

Following her absence from the 2022 Open, Jabeur will begin her 2023 season by competing against Tamara Zidanšek. She may also potentially face Aryna Sabalenka, who recently claimed her 11th career title and first in 19 months at Adelaide 1.

In other news, American athlete Jessica Pegula has been placed in the same section of the tournament bracket as Maria Sakkari. Pegula recently led Team USA to a win in the first-ever United Cup, where she impressively defeated Światek in straight sets. With her recent success in Melbourne and her current strong performance, she aims to set up an exciting semifinal match against her opponent from the United Cup.