Rafa Nadal will kick off his Australian Open title defence on Monday with a first-round test against rising Briton Jack Draper as a new era begins on the blue hardcourts of Melbourne Park.
This is the first Grand Slam following Roger Federer’s retirement and Serena Williams’s “evolving away” from tennis.
Spaniard Nadal carries the flame for the fading golden generation as he bids for a 23rd major title and third at Melbourne Park.
The 36-year-old is third up at Rod Laver Arena, returning to the centre court where a year ago he conjured the “miracle of Melbourne”, coming back from two sets down to topple Daniil Medvedev in a five-set classic.
However, as Nadal observed on Saturday, tennis moves quickly.
The top seed has had only one win since September’s U.S. Open and admitted his title defence was vulnerable to an early shock after two straight defeats in the lead-up.
A young man in a hurry, 21-year-old Draper surged into the top 40 after a run to the Adelaide II semi-finals last week and has previously recorded wins over a slew of top players, including Stefanos Tsitsipas and Felix Auger-Aliassime.