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Rediff.com  » Sports » Aus Open PIX: Injured Nadal sent packing by McDonald

Aus Open PIX: Injured Nadal sent packing by McDonald

Last updated on: January 18, 2023 13:12 IST
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Images from Day 3 of the 2023 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Wednesday.

Spain's Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd as he leaves the court after losing his second round match against Mackenzie Mcdonald at the Australian Open, in Melbourne, on Wednesday.

IMAGE: Spain's Rafael Nadal waves to the crowd as he leaves the court after losing his second round match against Mackenzie Mcdonald at the Australian Open, in Melbourne, on Wednesday. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

Defending champion Rafael Nadal bowed out in the second round of the Australian Open on Wednesday after suffering an injury during his 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 defeat by American Mackenzie McDonald.

His elimination shakes up the men's draw and puts a twist in the Grand Slam titles race, with nine-times champion Novak Djokovic able to draw level with the Spaniard's 22 major championships should he take a 10th crown at Melbourne Park.

 

Nadal appeared to suffer a strain in his left hip area while running for a backhand deep in the second set at Rod Laver Arena and after receiving attention from a trainer he took an off-court medical time-out when trailing 6-4, 5-3.

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 title at Melbourne Park.

Before the injury McDonald had played superbly to take the first set, going toe-to-toe with the 36-year-old Spaniard and winning most of the ferocious baseline exchanges.

Mackenzie Mcdonald reacts after winning the second set.

IMAGE: Mackenzie Mcdonald reacts after winning the second set. Photograph: Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

"He's an incredible champion, he's never going to give up regardless of the situation so even closing it out against a top guy like that is always tough," said McDonald.

"I was trying to stay so focused on what I was doing and he kind of got me out of that with what he was doing. But I kind of just kept focusing on myself and got through.

"Last time I played him was at Chatrier, he kicked my butt," said McDonald, who took only four games off Nadal in the second round of the French Open in 2020.

"It's tough to hit through on clay but I liked my chances on hard, I really wanted to take it to him on hard court. I'm really glad I got my chance and got away with it."

Rafael Nadal receives medical attention after sustaining an injury during the second set.

IMAGE: Rafael Nadal receives medical attention after sustaining an injury during the second set. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

After Nadal's time-out, he returned to court to a big ovation and earned another round of applause 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 worried entourage.

McKenzie 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 McDonald deep into the third set but was finally broken to 6-5 when the American bolted forward to flick a passing shot past him.

Nadal attacked 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.

Auger-Aliassime fights back from the brink

Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime celebrates victory over Slovakia's Alex Molcan.

IMAGE: Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime celebrates victory over Slovakia's Alex Molcan. Photograph: Sandra Sanders/Reuters

Felix Auger-Aliassime avoided a humbling exit from the second round, cutting out the mistakes to secure a thrilling 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 comeback win over Slovakian Alex Molcan.

Backed as a potential champion at Melbourne Park by no less than John McEnroe this week, the Canadian sixth seed looked like slumping out of the year's first Grand Slam after an error-prone first two sets on Margaret Court Arena.

The 22-year-old appeared to get fired up by a complaint to the umpire about the state of the balls early in the third set, however, and suddenly was a different player, serving like a dream and imposing his game on the world number 53.

"It's quite simple, you have to put the ball in the court without missing," Auger-Aliassime laughed, explaining the transformation.

"At the end of the day, it's not rocket science. So I was just trying to put one more ball in the court and make it simple, make it work."

It was quite a contrast with the opening two sets when Auger-Aliassime overcooked his shots on both sides and sprayed 25 unforced errors, with Molcan gleefully taking advantage.

"The numbers show it but he was just way more consistent than I was in the first two sets," Auger-Aliassime conceded.

"I was just trying to find a way to stay a little bit longer on court, to make the match tough and make it last longer.

"When I was able to clinch that third set, I got a lot more of belief in myself, my thoughts were a lot more positive and then I was thinking: 'I've done it before maybe I can do it again, come back and win'.

"I'm really thrilled I was able to get it done. It was a tough day for me."

The Canadian, who lost the first set of his opening match against compatriot Vasek Pospisil on Monday, wrapped up the contest in just over three hours with a rasping forehand - the fifth time in his career he has come back to win a five-setter.

A quarter-finalist in Melbourne last year, Auger-Aliassime will next play Argentine 28th seed Francisco Cerundolo or France's Corentin Moutet.

Swiatek, Sinner storm into third round

IMAGE: World No 1 Iga Swiatek in action during her first round match against Colombia's Camila Osorio during Day 3 of the 2023 Australian Open in Melbourne on Wednesday. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Iga Swiatek, hot favourite for the women's title, and men's dark horse Jannik Sinner swept into the third round of the Australian Open before nine first-round matches were started as the weather continued to wreak havoc at Melbourne Park on Wednesday.

World number one Swiatek overcame Camila Osorio 6-2, 6-3 under the roof on Rod Laver Arena and Italian Sinner waltzed past Tomas Etcheverry 6-, 6-2, 6-2 on the similarly protected John Cain Arena.

Rain kept the players off the outer courts for four hours after the scheduled start, however, adding to fixture congestion triggered by extreme heat and storms on Tuesday when nine matches did not get started and two could not be completed.

Swiatek headlined the action that was possible early on Wednesday and was the first to admit that the scoreline did not reflect the difficulty of her contest against the 21-year-old Colombian.

The Polish top seed set off at a canter and was 4-0 up before Osorio found her range with her groundstrokes and scooted around the court to put huge pressure on Swiatek's serve.

Two breaks of serve got the Colombian on the scoreboard at 5-2 but Swiatek broke back to win the opening set and fended off another break point in the opening game of the second.

"It was really intense physically and Camila was running to every ball, she didn't give up," said Swiatek.

"She didn't give me many points for free, so I needed to really work for each one of them, but I'm happy that I was consistent in being proactive and trying to just play a little faster to put pressure (on her)."

IMAGE: Italy's Jack Sinner fired 32 winners and converted all five of his break-points during his second round victory over Argentina's Tomas Martin Etcheverry. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Swiatek always had the measure of Osorio's serve, however, and even when she was broken serving for the match for the first time, a third round meeting with former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu or Cristina Bucsa never looked in doubt.

Greek sixth seed Maria Sakkari had a much bigger scare on Margaret Court Arena against 18-year-old Diana Shnaider and was forced to come from a set down to beat the Russian teenager 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 over more than two 1/2 hours.

"It was a very high level from both of us, she played an amazing match, she's very talented, very promising," said Sakkari, before joking that Shnaider should consider giving up her college eligibility in the United States and turn professional.

IMAGE: Greek sixth seed Maria Sakkari celebrates winning her match against Russia's Diana Shnaider. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Sinner, who has reached the quarter-finals of all four Grand Slams but never gone any further, could hardly have shown better form as he briskly dismissed Argentine Etcheverry.

Strong and aggressive, the 21-year-old fired 32 winners and converted all five of his break points to set up a third-round meeting with Lloyd Harris or Marton Fucsovics in an hour and 44 minutes.

"For sure, the level today was good, I served well, I returned good as well as I think he is a very good server so I'm very happy to be in the next round," Sinner said.

"I'm very happy to play on this court with the roof, hopefully it won't rain in the next days."

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