Rafael Nadal's heated towels saga



by JOVICA ILIC

Rafael Nadal's heated towels saga
© Cameron Spencer / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Rafael Nadal's most recent match came at this year's Australian Open, falling to Mackenzie McDonald in the second round. Rafa lost in straight sets, experiencing a hip injury and staying away from the court for nine months after failing to recover.

Alongside an injury and a tough loss, Nadal also remembers an argument with the chair umpire Marijana Veljovic over the towels. This year's Australian Open was not to be for a 22-time Major champion, not liking the balls and feeling miles below his best.

Also, Rafa struggled to find the rhythm at Rod Laver Arena, with the towels standing too far from him and the ball boys not being allowed to bring them to him. Nadal disputed with the chair umpire Marijana Veljovic at 1-4 in the first set, saying he was under constant pressure in his service games.

The defending champion fell to McDonald 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in two hours and 32 minutes, losing massive points and extending his misery that started at last year's Wimbledon. Mackenzie overpowered Rafa after a fine display, losing serve two times and delivering five breaks from eight opportunities.

The American had the upper hand in the shortest rallies up to four strokes, keeping the ball on his racquet and prevailing in the third set's closing stages. McDonald broke in the encounter's first game and extended the gap to 4-1 in under 20 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, gathering a boost. They traded breaks at the start of the second set, and McDonald continued with three comfortable holds to keep the pressure on the other side.

Rafael Nadal lost to Mackenzie McDonald at last year's Australian Open.

Nadal squandered a game point at 3-3 and missed a half-volley to drop serve and fall behind. 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. 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, looking good to dethrone a grand champion.

Rafa continued and gave his best in the third set, unwilling to retire despite risking even more problems! He fired an ace on a break point at 4-4 and held for more drama. Mackenzie placed a backhand down the line winner in game 11 for a decisive break.

The American served for the victory in game 12 and fired a service winner to seal the deal and send the Spaniard packing. "I'm in a rush every time, even when serving at a normal pace. It's always the same without the towel; I see five or four seconds left on the clock.

It's always the same with you. It does not matter to you, but I can not take the towel every time after being out there and far from me," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Australian Open