Draper eventually came from two sets to one down to claim a 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-0 6-2 victory over Marcos Giron but had to battle injury scares and the elements in Melbourne.
Such was the intensity of the encounter that the 22-year-old had to run off the court to be sick in a bin shortly after shaking Giron’s hand following the match’s exhausting final rally.
“I kind of felt bad because I obviously just beat the guy, and I was saying, I need to shake your hand, mate, but I need to get to that bin,” Draper recalled after the match.
Draper with the 'hurry up and shake my hand cause im gonna vomit" pic.twitter.com/HWqBuKvVRR
— Ryan (@Some1NamedRyan) January 16, 2024
The Brit had to summon the physio after the second set and also had his blood pressure checked in the searing Melbourne heat. However, Draper suggested that his post-match sickness was instead down to the mental torment he had faced during his longest Grand Slam match to date.
“I don't usually get sick, not ever. It was obviously a physical match in tough conditions. It wasn't that long for a five-set match. I played three hours, 40 last week in hotter conditions, and I was physically absolutely fine,” he explained.
“I think it's obviously a Grand Slam. It's tougher sort of with the tension to play that first match. I was obviously unsure of the way I would be playing because of different conditions. I think I'm still a young player, so getting used to the environment around these slams and the tension is difficult.
“I think it was more kind of psychological stress today that was causing my sort of fatigue rather than the physical nature because I felt better in the fifth set than I did the first.”
The Brit had never previously won at the Australian Open having lost to Rafael Nadal in his maiden appearance at the tournament last year. Yet, there is a tangible sense of excitement around Draper this year, especially after he reached the final of the Adelaide International in preparation for the year’s first Grand Slam.
The World No. 55 admitted he may have to seek help to address his on-court anxiety but hopes his growing exposure in the biggest events will help him adjust and overcome his new-found challenges.
“You do have that anxiety when you are playing, obviously there's a lot going on. It's hot. There's sort of no way out from the court. You have to really suffer to win the points, and you've got to work hard,” Draper added.
“Every player feels it, and every player has different kind of ways they struggle with it, whether it's someone getting really tight on their forehand, and they can't hit a forehand. It might be their movement starts to go a little bit.
“For me, it feels like my breathing starts to really struggle, and I can't get the oxygen in me. That's obviously a difficult point when you are playing. You are not only playing the guy, you are almost competing against yourself because you're not obviously feeling 100%.
“That's something I'm going to have to speak to someone about and try and sort of figure out methods in those situations - because it will happen again for sure - to try to calm me down.
“I'm hoping that as I keep getting more and more experiences and play at this high level in big-pressure environments it's going to get better.”
Draper takes on American number fourteen seed Tommy Paul in the second round. The two met in the aforementioned Adelaide Invitational last week, with the 22-year-old Brit recording a convincing 6-4 6-4 victory en route to the final.