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World No. 2 and top seed Rafael Nadal has kicked off his Australian Open title defence with a gutsy four-set victory over Great Britain’s Jack Draper.

The 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 win was the 22-time Grand Slam champion’s first victory of 2022, a much-needed one after going zero and two to commence a season for the first time in his career.

Speaking after the match, Nadal said that he simply needed a win, even if the way he achieved it was far from perfect.

“I need a victory, so that's the main thing. Doesn't matter the way,” Nadal said.

“The most important thing today is a victory against a tough opponent. To win against Jack, as I said before the tournament start, have been one of the toughest first rounds possible being seeded.

“We know not going to be perfect, as I said the other day. Was not perfect.”

The result of the fourth stanza might only read that the Spaniard only conceded one game, but it was a break by the Briton in the opening game after the defending champion held 40-15.

Nadal knew that the match was on his racket at that point, with Draper reeling from cramps in the third set.

“I think at that point of the match, the match was more on my side. That first game was a tough moment,” he said.

“I needed to win that game, to save that game, even with 40-15, then deuce. That's the games that change the match.

“Losing that game, then you are in trouble. That's the work today. Come back to that winning mood or spirit of saving these key moments, no?

“It is something that I need to keep working on. I am ready for the challenge and I'm ready to keep fighting for it.

“And victory helps, I can't lie you on that. When you win matches, you are more relax. You are more confident. You have better chances to resist these moments.”

Nadal will take on American Mackenzie McDonald following his epic win over compatriot Brendan Nakashima 7-6 7-6 1-7 6-7 6-4.


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