Injured Rafael Nadal eliminated by Mackenzie McDonald at Australian Open – CNN

Injured Rafael Nadal eliminated by Mackenzie McDonald at Australian Open – CNN

CNN —

Rafael Nadal’s title defense at the Australian Open ended prematurely on Wednesday when he lost in the second round to American Mackenzie McDonald 4-6 4-6 5-7.

Nadal, 36, struggled with a left hip injury throughout the match and required treatment in the second set at Rod Laver Arena.

He managed to finish the match and eventually went to McDonald in two hours and 32 minutes for his earliest exit from a Grand Slam since the 2016 Australian Open.

“I didn’t want to retire [as] the defending champion here. I didn’t want to leave the court with a retirement,” Nadal told reporters.

“It’s better that way in the end. I lost, nothing to say, congratulations [my] Opponent. At the same time, this is the sport – just do your best to the end.”

Nadal leaves the court after his second-round loss at the Australian Open.

McDonald started the match quickly when he broke Nadal’s serve in the opening game.

He did the same in the second set, taking control of the fight with constant, powerful punches from the baseline.

Nadal, looking to extend his men’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open, left the court for a medical time-out 5-3 in the second set.

The Spaniard was visibly struggling with his movement in the third set, but he still held the serve up to 5:5.

But then McDonald got the upper hand and secured the decisive break with a backhand pass when both players came on the net.

He ended the contest in the next game when Nadal threw a backhand back into the net to signal the biggest win of the 27-year-old’s career.

McDonald hit 42 winners against Nadal.

McDonald, who is not seeded for the tournament, now has a chance to repeat his best run at a Grand Slam so far if he manages to beat Dalibor Svrcina or Yoshihito Nishioka in the third round.

“He [Nadal] is an incredible champion,” McDonald said in his on-court interview. “He will never give up, no matter what the situation, so it’s always difficult to compete against such a top guy.

“I’ve tried to be so focused on what I’m doing. He sort of threw me out of rhythm with it, but I’m glad I kept focusing on myself in the end and persevered.”

After the game, Nadal said he was being treated to determine the exact nature and extent of the injury.

“It’s difficult to make a decision whether it’s a muscle, a joint or a cartilage… Let’s see what the injury is like and then we’ll see how I manage to follow the calendar,” he said to reporters.