Rafael Nadal follows Lleyton Hewitt's negative record
by JOVICA ILIC | VIEW 2675
At Wimbledon 2003, qualifier Ivo Karlovic stunned the defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in the opening round. It was the last early loss for the top seeds at Majors for almost 20 years, with all of them reaching at least the third round on the most significant tennis scene.
That all changed at this year's Australian Open, with Rafael Nadal taking a negative record. Rafa came to Melbourne as the defending champion in the absence of Carlos Alcaraz. The Spaniard has been struggling with an injury for months, lacking matches and experiencing another setback at the season's first Major.
The defending champion beat Jack Draper in the first round before falling to Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in the second. Rafa suffered a left hip injury in the second set and fought until the end, although it was not to be for him.
It was Nadal's earliest Major exit in seven years, continuing his poor run and losing almost 2000 ATP points.
Rafael Nadal produced the worst result for a top seed at Majors since 2003.
McDonald tamed his strokes nicely and stayed focused against the rival who could not play at his best.
The American played brave tennis and built the lead in the quickest rallies up to four strokes. He broke Nadal five times and lost serve twice to control the pace and move into the third round. The lower-ranked player made a flying start and broke Rafa in the opener's games one and five, moving 4-1 up in under 20 minutes.
Nadal reduced the deficit with a break in game six, and McDonald fended off a break point at 5-4 to bring the set home. The second set saw back-to-back breaks in the early stage, and Rafa served at 3-3. He squandered a game point and got broken following a forced error.
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 to prolong the set and his chances. McDonald brought the set home after Nadal's tired forehand at 5-4 to drive closer to the finish line.
Rafa continued and gave his best in the third set, fighting like a true champion despite struggling to move or hit a backhand. He fired an ace on a break point at 4-4 and held to extend the battle. 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 served for the victory in game 12 and landed a service winner to seal the deal and send the Spaniard packing.