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Tennis ball boy takes Rafael Nadal's racket in odd Australian Open exchange

Spaniard Rafael Nadal (pictured) beat England's Jack Draper in his first round match at the 2023 Australian Open on Monday in Melbourne. Photo by Joel Carrett/EPA-EFE
Spaniard Rafael Nadal (pictured) beat England's Jack Draper in his first round match at the 2023 Australian Open on Monday in Melbourne. Photo by Joel Carrett/EPA-EFE

Jan. 16 (UPI) -- A ball boy at the 2023 Australian Open accidentally took the wrong racket from Rafael Nadal during a break in his first-round match Monday in Melbourne, resulting in a peculiar scene and slight delay at the Grand Slam.

The incident occurred in the first set of Nadal's 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over England's Jack Draper at Rod Laver Arena. Nadal led 4-3 in the set when he went to his bench area for a break. He went through his equipment before he consulted the chair umpire.

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Nadal explained that the ball boy took the wrong racket to the on-site racket stringer.

"This one was for the stringer, not that one," Nadal, the defending Australian Open men's singles champion, told the umpire. "I need the racket back!

"This is not the one. I need the dampener and everything. The ball boy took my racket!"

Nadal then shouted over to Draper: "The ball boy took my racquet!"

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The ESPN broadcast crew joked that Nadal's racket may never be "seen again" and could be on the "streets of Melbourne somewhere."

Nadal, the top men's seed, went on to break Draper's serve en route to his 7-5 first-set triumph. The 22-time Grand Slam singles champion fired six aces and totaled 41 winners and 46 unforced errors in the three-hour, 41-minute math. Draper totaled 13 aces, 35 winners and 46 unforced errors.

Nadal will face American Mackenzie McDonald in his second-round match. McDonald beat fellow American Brandon Nakashima in five-sets to advance to the second round.

Australian Open coverage will air through Jan. 28 on ESPN platforms.

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