At Wimbledon 2003, qualifier Ivo Karlovic upset defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in the first round. It was the last early loss for the top seeds at the Majors in almost 20 years, and all of them reached at least the third round on the top tennis scene.
That all changed at this year’s Australian Open, with Rafael Nadal taking a losing record.. Rafa arrived in Melbourne as the defending champion in the absence of Carlos Alcaraz. The Spaniard has been struggling with injury for months, missing matches and experiencing another setback at the first Major of the season.
The defending champion defeated 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 for him.
It was Nadal’s first major outing in seven years, continuing his slump and losing nearly 2,000 ATP points.
Rafael Nadal produced the worst result for a top seed in the Majors since 2003.
McDonald tamed his shots very well and remained focused against the opponent who could not play at his best level.
The American played gritty tennis and built the lead in the fastest rallies of 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 got off to a great start and broke Rafa in the first games one and five, going up 4-1 in less than 20 minutes.
Nadal cut the deficit with a break in game six, and McDonald fended off a break point at 5-4 to take the set home. The second set saw consecutive breaks in the opening stage, and Rafa served at 3-3. He wasted a game point and broke down after a forced error.
The American hit an ace in the eighth game to confirm the lead, and the Spaniard called a medical timeout on his left hip. Rafa left the court and held on in game nine to prolong the set and his chances. McDonald brought the set home after Nadal’s tiring forehand at 5-4 to move closer to the finish line.
Rafa continued and gave his best in the third set, fighting like a true champion despite having trouble moving or hitting a backhand. He fired an ace on 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 to take a deciding break.
The American served for the win in game 12 and hit a service winner to seal the deal and send the Spaniard packing.