Defending Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal took a heartbreaking loss in just the second round of the 2023 tournament. Injuries sapped the 36-year-old of his usual prowess as he was thoroughly outplayed by American MacKenzie McDonald 4-6 4-6 5-7 in just three sets.
Nadal was visibly battling a left hip injury that even forced him to receive treatment in the middle of the second set. Despite being clearly hobbled by the issue, the Spaniard refused to retire as he grinded until the match point was made.
While you (and I) were sleeping, American Mackie McDonald upset Rafa Nadal in straight sets 😳 pic.twitter.com/awUg4KJbSk
— Brett Hanfling (@Brett_Hanfling) January 18, 2023
Fans were visibly moved and left emotional by the show of toughness from Rafa Nadal. Nobody was more visibly shaken than Nadal’s wife Maria, who was seen in tears by the thousands watching both in Rod Laver Arena and on the broadcast.
😢😭😢 Mrs. @RafaelNadal 🇪🇸
🎾 #AusOpen 🔛 #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/QGJKKKOZBu
— TRAVEL&Sports (@travel__Sports) January 18, 2023
Nadal blessé, son épouse Xisca en larmes #AusOpen #HomeOfTennis pic.twitter.com/sXbfBgFpMF
— Eurosport France (@Eurosport_FR) January 18, 2023
Watching your sports hero leave everything they have on the court and more would bring the most passionate fan to tears. To have the same experience with your significant other would probably be that same feeling tenfold.
Credit is definitely due to MacKenzie McDonald, who managed to break Nadal’s serve in both the first and second sets. While unfortunate that the reigning champion had to play with such a visible handicap, the moment still represents a massive feather in the American’s cap as he advances further than anyone anticipated in the Australian Open, via CNN:
“He [Nadal] is an incredible champion,” McDonald said in his on-court interview after eliminated Rafael Nadal from the Australian Open. “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 was trying to stay so focused on what I was doing. He kind of got me out of the rhythm with that but I’m happy I kept focusing on myself in the end and got through.”