Australian Open: Rafael Nadal rolls, Coco Gauff to play Emma Raducanu

Rafael Nadal Australian Open

Rafael Nadal outlasted a man 15 years his junior on the Australian Open’s first day, while Coco Gauff and Emma Raducanu set up a second-round showdown.

The defending champion Nadal, who was 1-6 in his last seven matches, beat 38th-ranked Brit Jack Draper 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1. Draper, 21, cramped considerably in the fourth set as Nadal advanced to play 65th-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald.

“I need a victory, so that’s the main thing,” said Nadal, who had more unforced errors (46) than winners (41). “Doesn’t matter the way.

“I am not playing bad, you know? Just need to hold the positive level for longer time. I am in a moment that I am more up and down.”

Jessica Pegula and Gauff breezed through their first-round matches, beginning what each hopes is a run to end the longest Grand Slam singles title drought for the U.S. in more than 50 years.

Pegula, the third seed, ousted 161st-ranked Romanian Jaqueline Cristian 6-0, 6-1 in 59 minutes on the first day of play in Melbourne. She next plays 38th-ranked Belarusian veteran Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Gauff, the seventh seed, dumped 46th-ranked Czech Katerina Siniakova 6-1, 6-4 on her seventh match point. She gets 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu of Great Britain in a blockbuster second-round match.

The 77th-ranked Raducanu didn’t make it past the second round of a major in 2022 after her breakthrough run through qualifying to win the U.S. Open without dropping a set at age 18. She withdrew from her first tournament this year with an ankle injury 10 days ago but rebounded to sweep 76th-ranked German Tamara Korpatsch 6-3, 6-2 in the first round in Melbourne.

The first day’s other headline: Australia’s biggest star, Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios, withdrew on the eve of his opening match.


It’s been three years and 10 Slams since an American man or woman won a major singles title (Sofia Kenin, 2020 Australian Open), the longest drought for the most successful nation in tennis history since Billie Jean King won her first Slam at Wimbledon in 1966.

Pegula and Gauff are the highest-ranked American singles players in either draw.

Pegula, the 28-year-old daughter of the Buffalo Bills owners, is at a career-high ranking after reaching the quarterfinals of three majors last year. She began the Australian Open as one of the top challengers to top-ranked Iga Świątek, having beaten the dominant Pole 6-2, 6-2 earlier this month.

“I don’t think I really am putting pressure on myself to duplicate [2022] because I think it was very special and something that probably won’t be duplicated,” Pegula said last week.

Gauff, who at 18 is the youngest player in the WTA top 50, won her Australian Open lead-in tournament last week without dropping a set. Like Pegula, she had her best season in 2022, taking runner-up to Świątek at the French Open and reaching No. 4 in the world.

“I’m ready to leave behind the tag of ‘teenage phenomenon,'” Gauff wrote for the BBC before the tournament. “My main ambition for 2023 is winning a Grand Slam title.”

No. 28 Amanda Anisimova, one of five American women seeds, was the first seed to fall. The 61st-ranked Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk took her out 6-3, 6-4.

Świątek began her bid for her fourth Grand Slam singles title by sweeping 69th-ranked German Jule Niemeier 6-4, 7-5. Niemeier was dangerous, having made the Wimbledon quarterfinals and taken a set off Świątek in the fourth round of the U.S. Open.

Novak Djokovic, the record nine-time Australian Open champion looking to tie Nadal’s men’s record 22 major titles, plays his first-round match Tuesday against 75th-ranked Spanish veteran Roberto Carballés Baena.

This is the first major since the retirements of Serena Williams and Roger Federer last September. The tournament is also missing top-ranked 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz of Spain (injury), four-time major champion Naomi Osaka (pregnancy) and seven-time major champion Venus Williams (injury).

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Jessica Pegula upset in French Open third round

Jessica Pegula French Open

Jessica Pegula, the highest-ranked American man or woman, was upset in the third round of the French Open.

Elise Mertens, the 28th seed from Belgium, bounced the third seed Pegula 6-1, 6-3 to reach the round of 16. Pegula, a 29-year-old at a career-high ranking, had lost in the quarterfinals of four of the previous five majors.

Down 4-3 in the second set, Pegula squandered three break points in a 14-minute game. Mertens then broke Pegula to close it out.

“I feel like I was still playing good points. Elise was just being really tough, not making a lot of errors and making me play every single ball. And with the windy conditions, I felt like it definitely played into her game,” Pegula said.

Pegula’s exit leaves No. 6 seed Coco Gauff, last year’s runner-up, as the last seeded hope to become the first U.S. woman to win a major title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major span without an American champ is the longest for U.S. women since Monica Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Mertens, who lost in the third or fourth round of the last six French Opens, gets 96th-ranked Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 2021 French Open runner-up, for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Earlier, ninth-seeded Russian Daria Kasatkina became the first player to reach the fourth round. She won 6-0, 6-1 over 69th-ranked American Peyton Stearns, the 2022 NCAA champion from Texas.

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, is the lone American woman left in the bottom half of the draw. She plays Kazakh Yulia Putintseva later Friday. Gauff, Bernarda Pera and Kayla Day remain in the top half.

Friday’s featured men’s matches: Top seed Carlos Alcaraz versus 26th seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, and No. 3 Novak Djokovic against No. 29 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Fred Kerley flies into Florence via Grenada; Diamond League broadcast schedule

Fred Kerley

American Fred Kerley is about to race on a fourth different continent this year, but the seeds for this season — and all of his medal-winning seasons — were planted on the sand, grass and pavement of Grenada.

Kerley, the world 100m champion, headlines Friday’s Diamond League meet in Florence, Italy. Peacock streams it live from 2-4 p.m. ET. CNBC airs coverage Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

It was to be a showdown between Kerley and the Olympic 100m champion, Marcell Jacobs of Italy. But Jacobs withdrew on Tuesday due to the nerve pain that has pushed back the start of his outdoor season. Jacobs withdrew from six scheduled races with Kerley dating to May 2022 due to a series of health issues since winning that surprise gold in Tokyo.

Kerley, who traded social media barbs with Jacobs earlier this spring, indicated a detente in a press conference Thursday.

“I’m not upset that he’s not competing, just wish him health and that he gets back to competing at 100 percent,” he said.

When speaking of himself, Kerley kept his trademark confidence. He wore a hat with a goat on it on Thursday and repeated that his focus is on two numbers: 9.69 (Tyson Gay‘s American record in the 100m) and 9.58 (Usain Bolt‘s world record). Kerley’s personal best, in two-plus years since dropping down from the 400m, is 9.76.

He resides in South Florida, a place that allows an outdoor athlete to train year-round. Kerley eschews that. He annually flies to Grenada for up to six-week stays.

“[I] work on a lot of specific stuff in Grenada to get me to the level I need to be when Budapest comes around,” Kerley said, referring to August’s world championships in the Hungarian capital, where he will bid to become the first man to repeat as world 100m champion since Bolt in 2013 and 2015.

Why Grenada? His South Carolina-based coach, Alleyne Francique, competed at three Olympics for the Spice Island, including placing fourth in the 400m at the 2004 Athens Games. That was the best Olympic finish for any Grenada athlete until Kirani James won a 400m medal of every color at the last three Games.

Francique recruited Kerley to Texas A&M out of junior college in 2015. When Kerley turned pro in 2017, he moved to the ALTIS training facility in Arizona. After a year, he went back to Francique at College Station — “It didn’t work out for me. I won’t say anything bad about the program,” he said in 2019, according to Track and Field News. Kerley has since moved to Florida, but Francique still coaches him remotely from South Carolina and with him for meet travel.

Kerley has trained in Grenada’s national stadium in St. George’s, which in 2017 was named after James. But a more unique venue for Kerley is a paved hill near the home of one of Francique’s friends.

“There’s no traffic, so it’s a good area to train,” Francique said.

There are few distractions there, aside from chickens, ducks and cattle. Francique noted that in the three seasons that Kerley trained in Grenada, he won bronze (2019 Worlds 400m), silver (Tokyo Olympic 100m) and gold (2022 Worlds 100m).

“So next year, maybe, he breaks a world record,” Francique said.

Here are the Florence entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

12:30 p.m. — Women’s Discus
12:45 — Men’s Triple Jump
1:15 — Men’s Shot Put
1:43 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:04 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:15 — Men’s 200m
2:20 — Men’s High Jump
2:25 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:42 — Women’s Long Jump
2:44 — Women’s 100m
2:56 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 5000m
3:28 — Women’s 400m
3:39 — Men’s 100m
3:49 — Women’s 1500m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:43 p.m. ET
Just like the Diamond League season opener in Doha, the field has the top five from the last year’s worlds, led by Americans Katie Moon and Sandi Morris, the gold and silver medalists. Moon is the world leader this year indoors and outdoors, though she no-heighted at last Saturday’s Los Angeles Grand Prix. Come August’s worlds, she will look to become the first woman to repeat as world champ in the pole vault in 16 years. Morris, who was third in Doha, eyes her first global outdoor title after four silvers between the Olympics and worlds.

Women’s Long Jump — 2:42 p.m. ET
A gathering of the world’s most accomplishes active jumpers — Olympic and world champion Malaika Mihambo of Germany, Olympic and world medalist Ese Brume of Nigeria — and the top Americans — Quanesha Burks and Tara Davis-Woodhall. They’re all chasing 7.08 meters, the world’s best leap this year recorded by Jamaican Ackelia Smith, a University of Texas sophomore.

Men’s 5000m — 3:06 p.m. ET
Field includes Olympic 5000m champion Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda, Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega of Ethiopia and world silver medalist Jacob Krop of Kenya as well as reigning U.S. 5000m and 10,000m champions Grant Fisher and Joe Klecker. Cheptegei, the world record holder, was ninth at last July’s worlds and since has strictly raced on the roads and in cross country.

Men’s 100m — 3:39 p.m. ET
The entire podium from last year’s worlds meets here: Kerley and countrymen Marvin Bracy-Williams and Trayvon Bromell. It’s a similar field to last Sunday, when Kerley prevailed by five hundredths over South African Akani Simbine. Simbine is back, as is Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, who is the world’s fastest man this year (9.84) but was third in Rabat.

Women’s 1500m — 3:49 p.m. ET
Kenyan Faith Kipyegon, a double Olympic and double world champion, ran the world’s fastest time of 2023 at the Diamond League opener in Doha on May 5. Then last weekend, four different Ethiopians ran faster. Kipyegon figures to be faster in Florence than she was in Doha given the addition of Brit Laura Muir, the Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist, in her outdoor season debut.

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Francique is based in Texas. He moved from Texas to South Carolina.

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