MELBOURNE, Australia ( Associated Press) — Rafael Nadal bows his head and rests his elbows on his knees during court changes, a picture of resignation.
He had already had a bad start to the year in 2022 after all kinds of health issues, but he hit his lowest point at the Australian Open on Wednesday.
The defending champion and first seed in Melbourne, clearly in pain, lost 6–4, 6–4, 7–5 to Mackenzie McDonald in the second round, abruptly ending her title defense and taking her record 23 grand Tried to raise to slam.
It was not immediately clear what was making the 35-year-old Spaniard uncomfortable, but he got up awkwardly after holding a point late in the second set against American McDonald, who is ranked 65th in the ATP rankings.
Nadal met with a coach on the sidelines and then left the court for a medical break. His wife wiped away her tears in the stands. The Spaniard returned to the field, but with obvious physical problems.
“He’s an incredible champion. He never gave up no matter what the situation, so it’s always tough to get close to someone at his level,” said the 27-year-old McDonald, who won the NCAA singles and doubles championships for UCLA in 2016. Is.” Me and I overtook.”
This was Nadal’s first Grand Slam elimination since his first-round loss in Melbourne in 2016 against Fernando Verdasco.
McDonald has never advanced beyond the round of 16 in a major. In their previous meeting with Nadal at Roland Garros in 2020, he could only win four games in a very one-sided match.
Nadal was crowned in Melbourne a year ago and added his 21st Grand Slam title. A few months later, in Paris, he raised his tally to 22, more than any other tennis player on the men’s tour.
He is currently ranked second in the ATP rankings, but is seeded first in Australia due to an injury to his compatriot and world number one Carlos Alcaraz.
But lately his body has been playing tricks on him.
He had to have painkiller injections in his left leg en route to victory at Roland Garros in June, withdrew from Wimbledon in July with a torn abdominal muscle before the semifinals and suffered a rib cartilage problem.
With the departure of Nadal, the shine of the tournament has faded. Last year, Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios withdrew to undergo surgery on his left knee; Naomi Osaka, winner of four Grand Slams, is not competing this year because she is pregnant; Simona Halep, winner of two major tournaments, is serving a doping ban and Venus Williams was absent due to injury.
And all this in the first edition of a major since Serena Williams and Roger Federer announced their retirements.
In other matches of the day, top seed Inga Swiatek made a comfortable 6-2, 6-3 win over Colombia’s Camila Osorio in the women’s draw to advance to the third round.
In a duel with the roof closed due to rain, the Polish tennis player suffered a break when she was leading 5–1 on match point, but won two games later.
The reigning French Open and US Open champion will face the winner of a duel between Canadian Bianca Andreescu, former US Open champion, and Spanish Cristina Buxa.
“I think it was tougher than the scoreboard,” Swiatek said. “It was really physically intense. It didn’t give me much points.”
“It was difficult, but I’m glad I was persistent and active,” he said. “I am very happy that I won and I will play the next round.”
American Jessica Pegula (seeded third) struggled against Aleksandra Sasanovic but won 6-2, 7-6(5).
Pegula had a chance to close out the match in the second set with serve and a 5–4 lead, but broke. She won the tiebreaker and will face either Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk or local Olivia Gadecki in the next stage.
Maria Sakkari (VI) survived a duel against 18-year-old Russian Diana Schnyder and prevailed 3-6, 7-6, 6-3. Lefty Schneider saved two match points on his serve, but Sakkari fell 0-30 in the next game.
“We both showed a very high level. I think he played an amazing game,” Sakkari said. “He’s very young and has a very promising career.”
In the men’s section, Jannik Sinner (15th) entered the third round after defeating Argentina’s Tomas Martin Echeverri 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.