Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal was booted from the Australian Open in the second round, ending his chances for a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam trophy.
He suffered the defeat in straight sets to Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.
Nadal noted, “It’s a tough moment. It’s a tough day. I can’t say that I am not destroyed mentally at this moment, because I would be lying.”
He pulled up awkwardly at the end of a point late in the second set against the 65th-ranked McDonald.
Nadal was visited by a trainer on the sideline, then left the court for a medical timeout. Up in the stands, his wife wiped away tears. Nadal returned to play, but was physically compromised and not his usual self, saying afterward that he could not hit his backhand properly and could not run much, either.
But Nadal added that, as the reigning champion of the tournament, he did not want to leave the court via a mid-match retirement.
Though not sure exactly what the injury might be, the Spaniard said his hip had been an issue for the past couple of days.
McDonald, an American who won NCAA titles in both singles and doubles while attending UCLA, said of Nadal, “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. I kept focusing on myself in the end and got through.”
McDonald added, “I’m really happy with how I started that match. I thought I was playing really well, serving great, returning well, too. So I was really taking it to him.”
This is Nadal’s earliest exit at any Grand Slam tournament since bowing out in the first round in Melbourne in 2016 against No. 45 Fernando Verdasco. That also made Verdasco the lowest-ranked player to defeat Nadal in Australia — until, of course, McDonald on Wednesday.
McDonald has never advanced past the fourth round of any major tournament.
Nadal won the Australian Open last year for the second time during his illustrious career, which made for his 21st major championship, then raised his total to 22 — the most for a man — at Roland Garros.
He is currently ranked No. 2 but was the top seed at Melbourne Park because No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz is sitting out the Australian Open with a bad leg.
The Associated Press contributed to this report