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Rafael Nadal Out of Australian Open With Injury Struggle, Devastating Loss

Rafael Nadal (Photo: Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal appeared resigned and contemplative during changeovers, his elbows resting on his knees, as his challenging start to 2023 hit a low point at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

As the defending champion and top seed at Melbourne Park, Nadal suffered a left hip injury and was defeated 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 by Mackenzie McDonald in the second round, abruptly ending his quest for a record 23rd Grand Slam title.

“It’s a tough moment. It’s a tough day,” Nadal reflected. “I can’t say that I am not mentally devastated right now, because that wouldn’t be truthful.”

The 36-year-old Spaniard awkwardly pulled up at the end of a point late in the second set against the 65th-ranked McDonald.

After a visit from a trainer and a medical timeout, Nadal returned to play but struggled physically, unable to execute his backhand and lacking his usual stamina.

“I didn’t want to retire mid-match, especially as the defending champion,” Nadal explained.

He disclosed that his hip had been bothering him for a couple of days but had worsened significantly during the match. The exact nature of the injury—whether muscle, joint, or cartilage related—will be determined after medical tests.

Reflecting on Nadal’s determination, McDonald commented, “He kept fighting until the end, even though he wasn’t at his best.”

Rafael Nadal (Photo: Juan Medina)

This marks Nadal’s earliest exit from any Grand Slam tournament since a first-round defeat in Melbourne in 2016. McDonald now joins Fernando Verdasco as the lowest-ranked player to defeat Nadal at the Australian Open.

McDonald, who had previously lost to Nadal in a lopsided match at the 2020 French Open, expressed his appreciation for the victory and its significance.

Seeded players who advanced included Stefanos Tsitsipas, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Daniil Medvedev, Jannik Sinner, and Frances Tiafoe.

Nadal, currently ranked No. 2, was the top seed in Melbourne Park due to No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz’s absence.

Recent health issues have plagued Nadal, including pain-killing injections for his left foot during the French Open, a torn abdominal muscle that led to his Wimbledon withdrawal, and rib cartilage problems.

His withdrawal adds to the absence of several other prominent players at the Australian Open, contributing to a tournament without the star power of past years.

Despite a challenging start to the season, Nadal remains a formidable force in tennis, having claimed his 22nd major title at the French Open last year.

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