Rafael Nadal’s Title Defense Halted at the Australian Open

Rafael Nadal’s Title Defense Halted at the Australian Open
Rafael Nadal during his second round match at the Australian Open. January 18, 2023. Melbourne. Photo Courtesy, Tennis Australia / Australian Open Media.

Top seed Rafael Nadal leaves the Australian Open after falling to Mackenzie McDonald in straight sets on Wednesday.

Two-time champion, Rafael Nadal, lost to American Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 after two hours and 32 minutes at Melbourne Park, ending his bid to defend the Australian Open title on Wednesday.

Moreover, the Spaniard sustained a left hip injury during the second set of his second-round matchup against McDonald on Rod Laver Arena, which he asserted left him “destroyed mentally.”

Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes it’s difficult to accept. Sometimes you feel super tired about all this stuff, in terms of injuries,” Nadal outlined.

[I] can’t come here and say, lying, that life is fantastic and staying positive and keep fighting. Not now. Tomorrow starts another day. Now it’s a tough moment. It’s a tough day, and you need to accept that and keep going.”

The 22-time Grand Slam champion admitted to having been dealing with the issue for a couple of days, albeit only when he ran for a ball at 3-4 in the second set, the injury aggravated, affecting his movement.

It has been a couple of days like this, but nothing like today in that movement. We’re going to start talking about that now, but I don’t know what’s going on, if it’s muscle, if it’s [the] joint,” he added.

I have a history in the hip that I had issues. I had to do treatments in the past and address a little. [It] was not this amount of problem. Now I feel I cannot move.”

McDonald made a fast start to the opener, producing an early break over his adversary, holding to open a 2-0 advantage.

Defending well while hitting powerful groundstrokes, the 27-year-old recorded a double break to lead 4-2 before Nadal regrouped, breaking back in a late charge that would force the Californian player to save a breakpoint in the 10th game, sealing the first set 6-4 in 46 minutes.

Furthermore, the World No. 65 hit 13 winners to the Spanish player 9, winning 82 percent of his first-serve points compared to his rival’s 61 percent.

In the second set, the American picked up where he left off, and after a 24-shot rally, he was up a break, holding a 2-0 lead.

However, the Spaniard fighting spirit took the court, setting the score even at 2-2. A tight set began to unfold until the unexpected happened.

As he was going after a ball along the baseline, Nadal hurt his left hip, leaving the court for treatment.

Once play resumed, McDonald, who had earned a crucial break in the seventh game, followed to consolidate his advantage over the injured champion, closing out 6-4 after 63 minutes.

The 36-year-old found himself two sets down, but regardless of the score and his injury, quitting was not an option for the defending champion.

I tried to keep playing without increasing the damage. But I just wanted to finish the match,” he stressed during the post-match press conference.

Adding: “I didn’t want to retire, to be defending champion here. Better like this at the end. I lost. Congratulate the opponent.

The third set got underway with Nadal hampered by the injury but making his best with the resources at hand, managing to fire 24 winners to the American’s 18.

Small margins separated them until the 11th game, when McDonald found breathing room to secure a pivotal break, stepping ahead 6-5 to next wrap up the set 7-5 and the match.

Assessing the encounter, he shared a few words about his opponent: “I’m really happy with how I started that match; I thought I was playing really well, serving great, returning well too. I was really taking it to him.”

He’s an incredible champion, he’s never going to give up regardless of the situation.

All in all, both players hit 42 winners and two double faults. The Manacor native committed 31 unforced errors to 22 from the Piedmont native.

By edging Carlos Moya’s pupil, he earned his second top-five career victory, reaching the third round of the competition.

The 2021 Citi Open runner-up advanced to the second round, beating Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion Brandon Nakashima after a five-set thriller.

Speaking about his adversary, the World No. 2 commented: “Mackenzie was playing at a great level of tennis. A long time I was there, fighting, having my chances, but he was doing well.”

Before earning his 77th career victory in Melbourne over Briton Jack Draper, Nadal lost six of the last seven matches he contested.

Following his first-round win, he stated: “The last couple of months haven’t been easy for me, but hopefully, this victory is going to help me.”

The early exit hurts the 92-time ATP titlist physically and mentally, and though the never give up attitude is being tested, it remains unchanged at his core.

Just try your best till the end. [It] doesn’t matter the chances that you have. That’s the philosophy of sport. That’s the essence of the sport by itself. I tried to follow that during all my tennis career.”

Nadal left the court, receiving a standing ovation from the fans.

Cecilia demartini
Sports Pundit staff writer @ceci_2812
Cecilia is a writer and journalist, passionate about motorsport and tennis.Her articles are published in newspapers and international online publications.

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