Rafael Nadal - From 'mentally destroyed' champion to new beginnings 

Rafael Nadal is back on the practice court after missing nine months due to an injury

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal - From 'mentally destroyed' champion to new beginnings 
© Cameron Spencer / Staff - Getty Images Sport

A 22-time Major champion Rafael Nadal has been sidelined since January, injuring his left hip at the Australian Open and struggling to recover. The 37-year-old has not given up, though, hitting the practice court and hoping to slowly build his form and physical strength ahead of 2024.

Rafa felt mentally destroyed after his most recent setback, experiencing too many of those in recent years. However, the Spaniard is eager to extend his career and compete at his favorite events next year, including the Olympic Games in Paris.

Rafa defeated Jack Draper in the Australian Open first round before falling to Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-4, 7-5. Nadal had struggled to play his best tennis before injuring his left hip in the second set closing stages. Rafa kept fighting, refusing to surrender and giving his everything in the third set before Mackenzie broke him in the closing stages to emerge at the top.

Rafael Nadal is giving everything to recover and extend his career.

Nadal struggled with his movement and sprayed too many unforced errors in his earliest Major loss in years. McDonald fired 14 aces and kept the points on his racquet following bold and aggressive tennis.

The American stood strong in the shortest range up to four strokes and broke the Spaniard five times from eight opportunities. Rafa earned only two breaks and needed more to achieve a better result. McDonald grabbed a break in the encounter's first game and forced Nadal's error at 3-1 to earn another return game.

Rafa pulled one break back in game six, but it was not enough to make him a contender. McDonald saved a break point at 5-4 to wrap up the opener in 46 minutes. We saw back-to-back breaks at the start of the second set, and Mackenzie served better in the remaining ones.

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 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 move closer to the finish line. Rafa continued and gave his best in the third set, fighting like a true champion.

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 for a decisive break. The American served for the victory in game 12 and fired a service winner to emerge at the top and celebrate a career-best triumph.

Nadal missed the upcoming events before surgery, staying home in Mallorca and working on his comeback.

Rafael Nadal