Australian Open 2023: Injured Rafael Nadal loses to Mackenzie McDonald


Rafael Nadal’s Australian Open title defense ended after a second-round loss to American Mackenzie MacDonald in which he struggled with injury.

The 36-year-old Spaniard was trailing for a set and a break when he suffered a hip problem.

He took a medical timeout towards the end of the second set and continued the match, but was eventually defeated 6-4 6-3 7-5.

This is Nadal’s earliest exit from the Australian Open since 2016.

It was a brutal end for Nadal after his stunning 2022, which saw him come back from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in last year’s final in Melbourne and win a record 14th French Open crown in June.

However, a typically combative performance in the Wimbledon quarter-finals resulted in him suffering an abdominal injury that hampered him for the rest of the season.

He arrived in Melbourne having lost his only two singles matches of the season and never looked fully comfortable.

Nadal’s wife was left in tears. His support team also looked emotional in the players’ box as the two-time champion struggled to make the transition to Rod Laver Arena.

Questions remain about Nadal’s future after retirement

Nadal, who is chasing a men’s record 23rd Grand Slam singles title, arrived at the first major of the year having lost six of his last seven matches and questions remain over his future.

It is the latest in a long series of physical problems for Nadal, who admitted he had no feeling in his left leg during his victory at Roland Garros last year because of pain injections from a chronic injury.

He ignored pleas from his support block to pull out of the Wimbledon quarter-final against Taylor Fritz, where he somehow managed to win despite not being able to serve or move properly. He subsequently withdrew from the tournament before his semi-final against Nick Kyrgios.

An abdominal injury he suffered at SW19 then hampered him at the US Open, where he crashed out in the fourth round against Francis Tiafoe and appeared to injure a rib.

He was given a tough test in the first round in Melbourne against Great Britain’s Jack Draper, but against Macdonald, who is ranked 65, his movement and speed proved to be negligible.

Nadal was running wide to collect a forehand when he appeared to shake his left thigh, immediately touching the area and dropping to a crouch.

He limped for the rest of the game before leaving the court for a medical timeout and returning to take the second set.

Despite not being able to hit a single shot deep, Nadal somehow managed to hold serve at 5-5 in the third set before MacDonald secured the inevitable break.

“Clinging on” – analysis

There have been times when Nadal has withdrawn from Grand Slam matches, but today he felt he could continue without a problem.

He was barely moving, but pitched pretty well, but once he was broken, it was over.

It must be said how well Macdonald played. He absolutely handled everyone in the early stages. Nadal held on.

I don’t know if it was a pre-existing condition – we’ll know more when he gives his press conference.

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