Rafa Nadal, the defending champion, was eliminated from the Australian Open in the second round on Wednesday after aggravating a hip injury during his 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 loss to Mackenzie McDonald. This is the latest incident in Melbourne Park’s injury-plagued history for the Spaniard.
The men’s draw is changed as a result of Nadal’s exit, and the race for Grand Slam titles is altered because nine-time champion Novak Djokovic can now catch Nadal with 22 major titles if he wins a title in Australia.
In the second set at Rod Laver Arena, Nadal strained his left hip while rushing for a backhand; following a trainer’s examination and trailing 6-4, 5-3, he left the court for a medical timeout.
He returned grim-faced to play out the match, but his movement was clearly affected, particularly on his backhand side, paving the way for McDonald to end the Spaniard’s bid for a third Australian Open title.
Nadal said the hip had bothered him for a couple of days but nowhere near to the extent of Wednesday’s match.
“I don’t know what’s going on, if it’s muscle, if it’s (the) joint,” he told reporters.
Nadal returned to court after his time-out to a big ovation and earned more cheers when he held serve.
His gloomy expression told the story, though, and he declined to retrieve a drop-shot in the next game, shaking his head at his entourage.
McDonald took the second set when Nadal whacked a forehand into the net, and the Spaniard thudded his racket into his chair at the change of ends.
Leaning heavily on serve and relying on touch, Nadal dragged the American deep into the third set but was finally broken to 6-5 when McDonald bolted forward to flick a passing shot by him.
Nadal rushed the net in a desperate last stand, but there was to be no repeat of the “Miracle of Melbourne,” when he came back from two sets down in last year’s classic final to beat Daniil Medvedev.
Though the 2022 final would rank among Nadal’s finest moments, the lefthander has had more than his share of heartache at the year’s first Grand Slam.