Rafael Nadal was knocked out in the second round of the Australian Open by American Mackenzie McDonald.
Nadal fell to the American 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, adding to the Spanish great’s early Grand Slam exits since winning his first major at Roland Garros in 2005.
The Spaniard’s elimination adds a twist to the Grand Slam title race, with nine-time champion Novak Djokovic now clear to equal the Spaniard’s 22 major titles if he wins a tenth title at Melbourne Park.
The defending champion appeared to strain his left hip while running for a backhand deep in the second set at Rod Laver Arena, and after receiving treatment from a trainer, he took an off-court medical time-out while trailing 6-4 5-3.
He returned but was clearly affected by the knock, making it easy for McDonald to end Nadal’s bid for a third Melbourne Park title.
“He’s an incredible champion; he’s never going to give up no matter what, so even closing out against a top guy like that is always difficult,” McDonald said.
“I was trying to stay focused on what I was doing, and he kind of got me out of it with what he was doing. But I just kept concentrating on myself and got through it. “The last time I played him was at Chatrier, and he kicked my butt,” said McDonald, who beat 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 glad I had my chance and got away with it.”
Nadal has battled injuries since withdrawing from Wimbledon in the semi-finals last year, and he entered 2023 low on confidence and less than fully fit.