Defending champion Rafael Nadal was ousted from the Australian Open in the first round. The Spaniard struggled with a left hip problem as he fell to a 6-4 6-3 7-5 defeat by American Mackenzie McDonald ending his chances of winning a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam title.
“It’s a tough moment. It’s a tough day,” Nadal said. “I can’t say that I am not destroyed mentally at this moment, because I would be lying.”
Against McDonald, who was ranked 65th, the 36-year-old Spaniard pulled up awkwardly at the conclusion of a point in the second set.
A trainer checked on Nadal on the sidelines before he departed the court for a medical break. His wife wiped her eyes up in the stands. Despite being physically weakened and not his typical unflappable self, Nadal returned to the game. He later said that he was unable to run much or hit his backhand correctly.
Nadal did, however, add that as the current tournament champion, he did not want to retire in the middle of a set.
His hip had been bothering him for a few days, but he claimed it had never been as bad as it was on Wednesday. Nadal expressed uncertainty about the injury’s nature and said he would undergo testing to discover whether it included a muscle, a joint, or cartilage
“‘It’s never over until it’s over’ type thing,” McDonald said. “He didn’t even want to roll over and quit. He kept fighting until basically the end, even though he maybe didn’t have all his game.”
“I was in the locker room, and I was like, ‘Hey, that’s actually really big for me because I haven’t beaten someone of that caliber,'” McDonald, a 27-year-old American who won NCAA championships in singles and doubles for UCLA in 2016, said about the aftermath of the match
Since losing to No. 45 Fernando Verdasco in the opening round of a Grand Slam tournament in Melbourne in 2016, this is Nadal’s quickest exit. Additionally, until McDonald on Wednesday, Verdasco was the lowest-ranked player to upset Nadal in Australia.
McDonald has never advanced past the fourth round of a significant competition. McDonald lost badly in his lone prior encounter with Nadal in the 2020 French Open, winning just four games overall.
“He kicked my butt,” McDonald recalled Wednesday.
Nadal won the Australian Open twice a year ago to win his 21st major title. He then increased his record to 22 at Roland Garros, the highest of any athlete.
Despite being rated No. 2 right now, Nadal was the first seed at Melbourne Park because Carlos Alcaraz, who is presently No. 1, is missing the Australian Open due to an injured leg.
Recently, Nadal’s body has been incredibly disloyal to him.
Due to a torn abdominal muscle, he withdrew from Wimbledon in July before the quarterfinals. In 2022, he also had a rib cartilage problem. While the route to winning the French Open in June of last year, he needed painkiller injections for his left foot.
The loss of Nadal further depletes the tournament’s star power. Along with his and Alcaraz’s absences, 2022 Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios withdrew due to the need for arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Additionally, four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka is not participating in the tour due to pregnancy, two-time major champion Simona Halep is serving a provisional doping ban, and Venus Williams is injured.