Jack Draper will head to Melbourne to prepare for Monday’s Australian Open clash with Rafael Nadal after losing in Adelaide.
The 21-year-old was bidding to made a first ATP Tour final and was the favourite against South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo, who he beat comfortably at the same venue last week.
But this was a different story, with Draper falling to a 6-7 (6) 7-6 (2) 6-3 loss in a gruelling contest lasting two hours and 45 minutes.
Given Draper has less than 48 hours until he plays probably the biggest match of his career so far against defending champion Nadal on Rod Laver Arena, it may be a blessing in disguise that he has a day off on Saturday.
With Nadal having lost six of his last seven matches, it appears as good a time as any to draw the 22-time grand slam champion, and there are plenty of pundits who believe Draper has a good chance of pulling off the upset.
Former British number one Tim Henman was courtside in Sydney last week for Cameron Norrie’s victory over Nadal at the United Cup.
Henman, who will be part of Eurosport’s coverage of the Australian Open, said: “I think it’s fair to say that Nadal is a little bit vulnerable. He hasn’t won a lot of matches recently. He lost both his matches at the United Cup.
“I’m sure he’s been working incredibly hard in practice but you want the confirmation on the match court and Jack is obviously playing well.
“I think if you’re going to come up against one of the world’s very best players, the first round is the time to play (them) so I definitely think it’s a case that Jack has nothing to lose and a lot to gain.”
Norrie will have to make a late dash from Auckland to Melbourne for his match on Monday against Luca Van Assche after continuing his unbeaten start to the year.
The British number one, who grew up in the New Zealand city, reached his first final at the ASB Classic four years ago and will try to go one better on Saturday against Richard Gasquet.
Having needed three sets to beat Jiri Lehecka and Marcos Giron, Norrie made it past American Jenson Brooksby in two, winning 6-3 6-4.
He lost only one point on serve in the first set and quickly recovered from a blip at the start of the second when he was broken to claim victory in an hour and 38 minutes.
Norrie has won four of his previous 11 finals, claiming titles in Los Cabos and Indian Wells in 2021 and Delray Beach and Lyon last year.
Gasquet reached the final without having to take to the court after countryman Constant Lestienne withdrew ahead of their clash.
Norrie said: “Jenson’s a young up-and-coming player. He’s played a few big matches but I’ve played a few more than him.
“I feel like my game, I’m just a little bit better at everything than him so I just wanted to back my legs today and I was able to serve a bit better and hold my service games a lot easier than he did. I was able to save my legs and I was feeling really good physically towards the end.
“(Gasquet) is an absolute veteran of the tour and he’s a really solid player and I’m going to have to run a lot to beat him.”
READ MORE: Rafael Nadal vulnerable to a first round upset at the hands of Jack Draper
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