Rafael Nadal’s Australian Open title defense ends with injury-hit defeat against Mackenzie McDonald
Rafael Nadals Australian Open The title defense came to an early end on Wednesday when he lost 4-6 4-6 5-7 to American Mackenzie McDonald in the second round.
The 36-year-old Nadal struggled with a left hip injury throughout the match and had to be treated at the Rod Laver Arena during the second set.
He managed to finish the match and eventually went down to McDonald in two hours and 32 minutes for his first exit from a grand slam since the 2016 Australian Open.
“I didn’t want to retire [as] the defending champion here. I didn’t want to leave court with a pension,” Nadal told reporters.
“It’s better that way in the end. I lost, nothing to say, congratulate [my] opponent. That is the sport at the same time: just do your best until the end.”
McDonald started the match quickly as he broke Nadal’s serve in the opening game.
He then did the same in the second set, taking control of the match with consistent, powerful strikes from the baseline.
Nadal, looking to extend his men’s record of 22 grand slam titles at the Australian Open, left the field for a medical timeout at 5-3 in the second set.
The Spaniard clearly had trouble moving in the third set, but nevertheless remained on service until 5-5.
But then McDonald got the upper hand and secured the crucial break with a backhand passing shot as both players came to the net.
He rounded out the game in the next game when Nadal dropped a backhand return into the net, marking the biggest win of the 27-year-old’s career.
Unqualified for the tournament, McDonald now has a chance to match his best ever run at a grand slam if he manages to beat either Dalibor Svrcina or Yoshihito Nishioka in the third round.
“He [Nadal] is an incredible champion,” McDonald said in his court interview. “He will never give up no matter the situation, so even closing against such a top man is always difficult.
“I tried to stay so focused on what I was doing. He kind of took me out of the rhythm with that, but I’m glad I kept focusing on myself in the end and got through it.
After the game, Nadal said he would be treated to determine the exact nature and extent of the injury.
“It’s hard to find a solution if it’s a muscle, if it’s the joint, if it’s the cartilage… Let’s see how the injury is and then see how I can keep up with the calendar,” said he to reporters.