Defending champion Rafael Nadal ousted from Australian Open - ESPN

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  • Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Rafael Nadal bowed his caput during changeovers and rested his elbows connected his knees, the precise representation of resignation.

What was already a mediocre commencement to 2023, pursuing a twelvemonth marred by each mode of wellness issues, reached a debased constituent astatine the Australian Open connected Wednesday.

The defending champion and No. 1 effect astatine Melbourne Park, Nadal injured his near hep and mislaid to Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 successful the 2nd round, abruptly ending his bid for a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam trophy.

"It's a pugnacious moment. It's a pugnacious day," Nadal said. "I can't accidental that I americium not destroyed mentally astatine this moment, due to the fact that I would beryllium lying."

The 36-year-old Spanish subordinate pulled up awkwardly astatine the extremity of a constituent precocious successful the 2nd acceptable against the 65th-ranked McDonald.

Nadal was visited by a trainer connected the sideline past near the tribunal for a aesculapian timeout. Up successful the stands, his woman wiped distant tears. Nadal returned to play but was physically compromised and not his accustomed indefatigable self, saying afterward helium could not deed his backhand decently and could not tally much, either.

But Nadal added that, arsenic the reigning champion of the tournament, helium did not privation to permission the tribunal via a midmatch retirement.

He said the hep had been bothering him for a mates of days but that it was ne'er arsenic atrocious arsenic it became connected Wednesday. Nadal was not precisely definite of the quality of the injury, saying helium volition person aesculapian tests to find whether it has to bash with a muscle, a associated oregon cartilage.

"'It's ne'er implicit until it's over' benignant thing. He didn't adjacent privation to rotation implicit and quit. He kept warring until fundamentally the end, adjacent though helium possibly didn't person each his game,'' said McDonald, a 27-year-old American who won NCAA championships successful singles and doubles for UCLA successful 2016.

"I was successful the locker room," McDonald said astir the aftermath of the match, "and I was like, `Hey, that's really truly large for me, due to the fact that I haven't beaten idiosyncratic of that caliber.'''

This is Nadal's earliest exit astatine immoderate Grand Slam tourney since bowing retired successful the archetypal circular successful Melbourne successful 2016 against No. 45 Fernando Verdasco. That besides made Verdasco the lowest-ranked subordinate to decision Nadal successful Australia -- until, of course, McDonald connected Wednesday.

McDonald has ne'er been past the 4th circular astatine a large tournament. In his lone erstwhile matchup against Nadal, astatine the 2020 French Open, McDonald won a full of conscionable 4 games successful a lopsided loss.

"He kicked my butt," McDonald recalled Wednesday.

Joining McDonald successful the 3rd circular is chap American Frances Tiafoe, who is seeded 16th, and No. 15 Jannik Sinner of Italy.

"I told him, 'You're going to beryllium successful a presumption to triumph today. You tin triumph today,''' Tiafoe said astir McDonald. "Sort of seeing however helium feels, I'm blessed for Mackie. 'GOAT wins' don't travel easy. Something to archer his grandkids 1 day, and you person to beryllium blessed for that guy.''

A twelvemonth ago, Nadal won the Australian Open for the 2nd clip to gain his 21st large championship, and helium past raised his full to 22 -- the astir for a antheral -- astatine Roland Garros.

He is presently ranked No. 2, but Nadal was the apical effect astatine Melbourne Park due to the fact that No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz is sitting retired the Australian Open with a atrocious leg.

Nadal's assemblage has betrayed him rather a spot recently.

He needed pain-killing injections for his near ft connected the mode to winning the French Open past June, pulled retired of Wimbledon successful July earlier the semifinals due to the fact that of a torn abdominal musculus and besides dealt with a occupation with rib cartilage successful 2022.

Nadal's exit drains the tourney of yet much prima power. In summation to his lack and that of Alcaraz, 2022 Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios pulled retired due to the fact that his near genu needs arthroscopic surgery, four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka is disconnected the circuit portion she is pregnant, two-time large champ Simona Halep is serving a provisional doping prohibition and Venus Williams is hurt.

That is each connected apical of this: The 2023 variation of the Australian Open is the archetypal Grand Slam tourney since Serena Williams and Roger Federer announced their retirements.

Nadal arrived successful Melbourne with an 0-2 grounds this season, making him 1-6 dating to September, erstwhile helium mislaid to Frances Tiafoe successful the 4th circular of the US Open.

Even during a first-round triumph connected Monday, a four-setter against a cramping Jack Draper, Nadal ne'er rather seemed to beryllium astatine his chase-every-ball, put-every-high-spin-shot-on-target best. He looked, somehow, his age.

The aforesaid was the lawsuit from the outset against McDonald.

"I'm truly blessed with however I started that match. I thought I was playing truly well, serving great, returning good too," McDonald said. "So I was truly taking it to him."

That is true. From the get-go, McDonald was on, and Nadal was off.

The archetypal crippled served arsenic thing of a harbinger: McDonald broke for a 1-0 pb acknowledgment a trio of unforced errors by Nadal -- 2 disconnected his feared lefty forehand side.

Out of sorts, Nadal got into a back-and-forth with seat umpire Marijana Veljovic during breaks successful enactment astir whether she was starting the between-points service timepiece excessively rapidly for his liking.

Soon, McDonald was up a set. Then helium went up a interruption close distant successful the second.

After 1 constituent successful that set, Nadal showed existent signs of trouble. He squatted down the baseline and placed his racket down connected the court. Then helium went implicit and leaned connected a sign, prompting Veljovic to inquire whether Nadal was OK.

Nadal watched a mates of serves disconnected McDonald's racket alert past him past was checked connected by the trainer. While the lucifer would proceed, it fundamentally was implicit close past and there.

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