'Rafael Nadal is a grand champion who never gives up,' says his rival

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'Rafael Nadal is a grand champion who never gives up,' says his rival
'Rafael Nadal is a grand champion who never gives up,' says his rival (Provided by Tennis World USA)

The defending Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal embraced a short Melbourne Park campaign. Rafa injured his left hip in the second-round clash against Mackenzie McDonald and fell 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 to hit the exit door and drop 1955 ATP points!

Despite an evident struggle, Nadal refused to surrender and gave his best in the third set, earning praise from his opponent. McDonald overpowered Nadal in two hours and 32 minutes, staying focused against an injured opponent and bringing home his career-best triumph.

Things went wrong for Rafa right from the start, never finding his rhythm and playing miles below his best at Rod Laver Arena. On the other hand, McDonald did everything well, overpowering the opponent in the closing stages of all three sets to emerge at the top and advance into the third round.

McDonald fired 14 aces, tamed his strokes nicely and built the advantage in the shortest points up to four strokes. He created eight break chances and seized five to send the defending champion packing. The American made a strong start and broke the Spaniard in the encounter's first game, which is always a good sign.

Pushing strong, Mackenzie secured another break in game five to extend the advantage to 4-1 after swift 19 minutes. Nadal pulled one break back in game six and created a break chance at 4-5. Mackenzie saved it and forced Rafa's mistake for 6-4 in 46 minutes.

They traded breaks at the start of the second set, and McDonald produced three fine holds to keep the pressure on the other side. Nadal squandered a game point at 3-3 and missed a half-volley to drop serve and fall behind.

Rafael Nadal experienced a hip injury against Mackenzie McDonald.

The American landed an ace in the eighth game to confirm the advantage, and the Spaniard asked for a medical timeout on his left hip. Rafa left the court and held in game nine once he returned to prolong the set. McDonald held at 30 in game ten after Nadal's tired forehand to wrap up the set and build a massive advantage after an hour and 49 minutes.

Rafa continued and gave his best in the third set, unwilling to surrender before the end. He fired an ace on a break point at 4-4 and held for more drama. Mackenzie leveled the score at 5-5 and placed a backhand down the line winner in the next one to grab a decisive break.

The American fired a service winner at 6-5 to emerge at the top and celebrate a career-best triumph. "It was very tough to stay mentally engaged. I found a way to pull it out, and I'm thrilled. Rafa is a grand champion who never gives up, regardless of the situation.

Closing the match against the rivals from the top is always challenging, and I did well," Mackenzie McDonald said.

Rafael Nadal Australian Open Mackenzie McDonald