Rafael Nadal was humbled 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in the second round on Wednesday to make his earliest exit at a major since 2016, with the defending champion suffering with a hip injury against Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion last lost this early at a Grand Slam here in 2016, when he went down in five sets to fellow Spanird Fernando Verdasco.
“It’s a tough day. I cannot say I am not destroyed mentally at this time because I would be lying,” Nadal said.
“In the end, I can’t complain about my life at all. But just in terms of sports and in terms of injuries and tough moments, that’s another one.”
He added that the injury could not have come at a worse time: “It wasn’t the right moment to have something like this. Sometimes it’s difficult to accept.
“Sometimes you’re tired of this kind of things with injuries. Now it’s a tough moment, you have to accept and keep going.”
Nadal was treated off court for his hip while trailing a set and 5-3.
But his 65th-ranked American opponent held his nerve during the pause, keeping up the pressure once Nadal returned to battle.
Nadal and Mcdonald had played once before, with 22-time Grand Slam winner from Spain losing just four games at 2020 Roland Garros.
The challenger came to the court after a five-set win in the opening round over compatriot Brandon Nakashima. His defeat of Nadal marked his first win over a Top 5 player at a major.
“I’m really happy with how I started,” McDonald said. “I was serving well and taking it to him.
“I found a way to pull it off.”
The winner said he tried to overlook his opponent’s condition: rafa’s an incredible champion, he will never give up regardless of the situation.
“Closing it out against a top guy is tough. I tried to stay focused on what I was doing – I’m glad I got through.”
Each player ended with 42 winners in the big-hitting battle on the Laver showcourt.
“I’ve got the guns to beat him, I was blasting the ball, hitting flat,” McDonald said. plan. He kicked my butt at Roland Garros.
“But I like my chances on hard court. I’m glad I got the opportunity and got away with (the win).”
Italy’s Jannik Sinner, seeded 12th, continued an anonymous trip through the draw, winning his second-round match in straight sets and hammering 32 winners in a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 defeat of Tomas Etcheverry.
The Argentine and the Italian former teenaged ski racer are practice partners and know each other’s games well.
But there has been no stopping the 15th-seeded Sinner so far this week, with both of his wins coming on the John Cain Arena, one of three covered venues in the complex.
The roof came in handy as rain wrecked a programme which was already delayed by poor weather late on Tuesday evening.
Sinner reached quarter-finals in three of the four Grand Slam last season, including in Melbourne.
“I’m very happy to be in the next round. Hopefully the rain will stop,” he said.
“My level today was good: I served and returned well.”
Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime came back from two sets down to produce a 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Slovak Alex Molcan in just over three hours.
Fellow North American Frances Tiafoe dispatched teenaged Chinese qualifier Shang Juncheng 6-4, 6-4, 6-1.
Auger-Aliassime said he got off to a late start in what turned into a major comeback.
“As long as I’m on the court I try to find a way to win and to give myself chances and to stay longer,” he said. “Today I was able to do it again.
“Of course you need to be fortunate that the opponent doesn’t play too well or the match will pass you by.
“Normally, when you are down 2-0 you don’t win without some luck.”