Defending champion Rafael Nadal is KNOCKED OUT of the Australian Open in the second round as the No. 1 seed is stunned by 65th-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald in straight-set upset after struggling with injury
- Defending champion Rafael Nadal was knocked out of the Australian Open
- He was beaten in straight sets on Wednesday by American Mackenzie McDonald
- Nadal was defeated after he struggled with with injury during the clash
- He seemed to suffer a suspected hip problem towards the end of the second set
Rafael Nadal waved a lingering farewell to the Rod Laver Arena after his latest Australian Open ended with an injury-induced straight sets defeat.
The defending champion’s watching wife, Xisca, was in tears after he appeared to jar himself around the left hip area late in the second set of his second round match against American Mackenzie McDonald.
He went off for the court for a treatment break but carried on, only to lose 6-4 6-4 7-5 to the former collegiate star from California.
American Mackenzie McDonald beat defending champion Rafa Nadal at the Australian Open
World No 65 McDonald caused a huge upset at the Rod Laver Arena, winning in straight sets
Even before the incident he was struggling against the contrastingly mobile McDonald’s, but thereafter his movement was clearly restricted and it seemed only a collapse from his opponent would save him.
Nadal was struggling to stay in the second at 3-5 when a relatively innocuous movement on the baseline saw him suddenly pull up and clutch his lower left side. There was no immediate public diagnosis but the problem area looked to be around his lower left ab and hip.
Having decided to carry on there were discussions between the player and his box, with anxious looks all round. He managed to stay competitive with limited mobility and carefree swipes at the ball, but McDonald broke him at 5-5 in the third and there was little resistance in the last game.
Nadal struggled with a knock throughout, appearing to insult his left hip during the second set
Nadal has now come off worst from seven out of his last nine matches going back to the US Open, a ratio of defeats not equaled since right at the start of his career.
Now 36 and a father, there will inevitably be speculation over how much more his body will wish to take, and he has not been the same since pulling out of last summer’s Wimbledon semi-final.
The apparent hip problem marks the sixth time in his grand career that either injury or illness has cruelled his Australian Open campaign.
He retired in the 2010 quarter-finals against Andy Murray with a knee injury and was badly hindered by a hamstring strain the following year in a last-eighth loss to countryman David Ferrer.
The defeat will inevitably lead speculation over how much more Nadal’s body will wish to take
Nadal withdrew from the Open in 2013 with a stomach virus and suffered a back injury in the warm-up before losing the 2014 final to Stan Wawrinka.
In 2018, the great Spaniard left his quarter-final against Marin Cilic with a hip issue.
Nadal last year finally won a second Australian Open title, 13 years after his first, by coming from two sets down to defeat Russian Daniil Medvedev in a classic decider.
Following his upset, McDonald was hugely respectful of Nadal and hailed his willingness to fight on despite his injury.
He said: ‘He’s an incredible champion. He’s never going to give up so closing it out against a guy like that is tough.
‘I’m happy I kept focusing on myself and got through.’