Rafael Nadal is out of the Australian Open after suffering a shock second-round loss to America’s Mackenzie McDonald at the Open.
The Spanish lost 6-4 6-4 7-5 to the American in what added his earliest Grand Slam exits since winning his first major in 2005 at Roland Garros.
The Spaniard’s elimination brings a twist to the Grand Slam titles race, with nine-time champion Novak Djokovic now clear to draw level with the Spaniard’s 22 major championships should he take a 10th crown at Melbourne Park.
The defending champion seemed to have suffered a strain in his left hip area while running for backhand deep in the second set at Rod Laver Arena and after receiving attention from a trainer he took an off-court medical time-out when trailing 6-4 5-3.
He returned but was patently affected by the knock, making it easy for McDonald to put an end to Nadal’s bid for a third title at Melbourne Park.
“He’s an incredible champion, he’s never going to give up regardless of the situation so even closing it out against a top guy like that is always tough,” McDonald said.
“I was trying to stay so focused on what I was doing and he kind of got me out of that with what he was doing. But I kind of just kept focusing on myself and got through. Last time I played him was at Chatrier, he kicked my butt,” said McDonald, who took only four games off Nadal in the second round of the French Open in 2020.
“It’s tough to hit through on clay but I liked my chances on hard, I really wanted to take it to him on hard court. I’m really glad I got my chance and got away with it.”
Nadal has had struggles with injuries since withdrawing from Wimbledon at the semi-final stage last year and came into 2023 low on confidence and looking less than fully fit.