Australian Open Men’s Day 1 Recap: Rafael Nadal Off to a Winning Start in Quest for 21st Slam Title

Rafael Nadal Melbourne Summer Set
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Day 1 at the 2022 Australian Open was inevitably marred by Novak Djokovic’s much-publicized absence. The defending champion and current World #1 was deported and his place as the #1 seed in the draw was taken by Lucky Loser Salvatore Caruso, which has really opened up this top half of the draw and given many players a chance at a big run here.

Australian Open Men’s Day 1 Recap

On the plus side

With Djokovic out of the tournament and Federer still absent from the tour, Rafael Nadal is the one man who can get to #21 here in Melbourne and he got off to a very good start, easily dispatching Marcos Giron, dropping only seven games and not conceding a single break. Nadal is by far the man with the most Slam pedigree in this draw, and despite his age and recent health struggles, it’d be a huge mistake to dismiss his chances of a second Australian Open title this fortnight.

Gael Monfils has found himself with a very favorable draw following Djokovic’s deportation, and he seems to be in good enough shape to take advantage of it and have a great run here. He wasted no time against Coria, dropping only five games all match and not getting broken a single time. The Frenchman has already claimed a title this season in Adelaide and seems to be back to form after his huge struggles post-COVID break.

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Carlos Alcaraz is the youngest player in the draw but looked like a seasoned veteran out there, easily winning his first round match in straight sets with no fuss. He’s also shown up in Melbourne with a much more developed body, a bit reminiscent of a young Nadal, looking ready to take on the tour, starting here. He reached the quarters at the US Open and has every reason to believe in another deep run here.

Who looked bad

Despite winning his match, Denis Shapovalov had a very poor performance against Laslo Djere, who should theoretically be an easy opponent for a top player on a hard court. The extremely erratic Canadian seems far from ready to have a big run here this fortnight.

Cameron Norrie got absolutely destroyed by Sebastian Korda, winning just seven games and offering no resistance whatsoever. The Brit is now on a five-match losing streak and has a terrible record of five wins and nine losses since his shocking Indian Wells title win.

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Aslan Karatsev won last week in Sydney and was a semifinalist last year at this tournament, a run he’s looking to repeat or improve on. However, his start was far from ideal; he looked tired and barely got past Jaume Munar, who had his chances. Karatsev will have to improve substantially to make any real noise this fortnight.

Main Photo from Getty.