Injured Spanish legend Rafael Nadal has bombed out in the second round at the Australian Open, losing in straight sets to USA’s Mackenzie McDonald 6-4 6-4 7-5 at Rod Laver Arena.
Nadal started to show plenty of discomfort late in the second set after stretching for a shot, with the American in control of the match.
MORE: Is Rafael Nadal finished? Early exit from Australian Open for champion
Not long after, the Spaniard called a medical time-out, seeking treatment on his hip in hope that he could return to the court.
Nadal has now gone off court for a medical timeout.
From the assessment, it looks like the issue is in the top of his left leg/hip area. pic.twitter.com/NOp5RxJ5rW
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) January 18, 2023
Battling on courageously into the third set, the two-time Australian Open winner’s team was seen visibly upset in the box as they knew the champion was done.
Already down one set and a break in the second, Nadal’s injury proved too much of an ask to produce a miraculous fightback.
Team Rafa has seen better days
via @QuentinMoynet https://t.co/47W9kFlXKt
— Christopher Clarey 🇺🇸 🇫🇷 🇪🇸 (@christophclarey) January 18, 2023
The 36-year-old hadn’t exited a Grand Slam event in the second round or earlier since Australian Open 2016 – losing to Fernando Verdasco.
However, Nadal did return to complete the match, grinding his way through a third and final set in visibly immense pain.
From the opening minutes of the game, McDonald was on, breaking the defending champion and showing his intention early.
MORE: Australian Open 2023 LIVE: Results, schedule, scores
The 65th-ranked American secured another break and withstood Nadal’s attempt to regain control over the first set.
McDonald was then able to lock away the opening six games in 46 minutes.
The second set began exactly the same as the first, with the 27-year-old breaking the 22-time Grand Slam winner in the first game.
And as it was in the first set, McDonald found himself leading just after an hour, 6-4 and putting a real strangle on the match.
Leading 2-0 and facing one of his heroes, the American looked to take his foot off the pedal a touch in the third set.
Nadal looked at shortening rallies and going for his winners to try work his way back into the contest.
McDonald admitted post-game that he tried to avoid becoming complacent given his opponent’s injury.
“Yeah, I’m really happy with how I started that match thought I was playing well, returning great, serving great,” McDonald said.
“Hate that for him in the third set. It was tough to stay mentally engaged. I found a way to pull it out.
“He’s an incredible champion. He is never going to give up regardless of the situation. Even closing it out against a top guy like that is always tough.
“I was trying to stay so focussed on what I was doing. He kind of got me out of the rhythm with that am happy I except focussing on myself in the end and got through.”
McDonald will now face the winner of Yoshihito Nishioka and Dalibor Svrcina in the third round.