Spanish Grand Slam champion struggles with hip injury and succumbs to a shock second-round loss to American Mackenzie McDonald.
Injured defending champion Rafael Nadal has crashed out of the Australian Open in round two to 65th-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald in a major upset, his worst Grand Slam result in seven years.
The Spanish 36-year-old, who was struggling with a hip injury, slumped on Wednesday 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 at Rod Laver Arena.
Defeat opens the door for arch-rival Novak Djokovic to draw equal with Nadal's record 22 Slam wins. The Serb is back in Melbourne after missing last year's tournament when he was deported.
Top seed Nadal never settled, slumping a set behind before taking a medical timeout when a breakdown in the second set after hurting himself stretching for a forehand and grimacing in pain.
He battled on but was in clear discomfort with his movement hampered.
His wife Mery was seen in the crowd in tears.
"It has been a couple of days like this, but nothing like today in that movement," said Nadal. "I don't know what's going on, if it's muscle, if it's joint.
"I was not able to hit the backhand at all. I was not able to run for the ball. But I just wanted to finish the match. That's it."
"I didn't want to retire, as defending champion here. No, I didn't want to leave the court with a retirement."
READ MORE: Nadal wins first round at Australian Open as he chases history
Take a bow 👏👏👏@mackiemacster v @RafaelNadal@Kia_Worldwide • #MovementThatInspires • #AusOpen • #AO2023@wwos • @espn • @eurosport • @wowowtennis pic.twitter.com/Q9UdvlaXM8— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 18, 2023
Rushed on serve
The last time Nadal fell so early at a Grand Slam was at the Australian Open in 2016, when he departed in the first round.
The pair had met once before, also in the second round of a Grand Slam. On that occasion, at the 2020 French Open, Nadal dropped just four games in a comfortable victory.
This time McDonald was always in control with Nadal immediately on the back foot, broken on his first service game, with the American bursting out to a 4-1 lead.
Nadal complained to the umpire that he was being rushed on his serve, before clawing a break back. He earned another break point at 4-5 to level it up, but the American held on and clinched the set.
Nadal left the court at the changeover, but it didn't help, with his serve again failing to fire, broken early once more as McDonald continued to dominate.
The Spaniard was on shaky territory, but as he has done so many times before, he found a way to claw back and level the set at 2-2.
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