Rafael Nadal’s injury woes returned Wednesday at the Australian Open. The defending champion pulled up lame late in the second set with a left hip injury against Mackenzie McDonald.
Down a set and 4-3, Nadal ran wide to his forehand when the injury happened, and moments later after treatment he left the court as his wife watched in tears from the stands.
The top-seeded Nadal wouldn’t quit. He put up a decent fight but fell to the American 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 and suffered his earliest loss at a Grand Slam in seven years. But all concern was over the 36-year-old’s hip and future in the sport.
“I have been a couple of days like this, but nothing like today in that movement,” Nadal said. “I don’t know.
“I have history in the hip that I had issues. I had to do treatments in the past, address a little. Was not this amount of problem. Now I feel I cannot move. But I don’t know till I do the test and all this stuff, I don’t know. Is difficult to make resolution if it’s a muscle, if it’s the joint, if it’s the cartilage.”
He added he didn’t want to retire.
“I consider all the time stopping, but I didn’t ask the physiotherapist at the end,” Nadal said. “I have to know myself. And I tried to keep playing without increasing the damage. No, that’s it. I was not able to hit the backhand at all. I was not able to run for the ball. But I just wanted to finish the match. That’s it.
“I didn’t want to retire, to be defending champion here. No, I didn’t want to leave the court with a retirement. Better like this at the end. I lost. Nothing to say. Congratulate the opponent.”
Nadal will return to Spain, get some tests and go from there.
“I like what I do,” Nadal said. “I like playing tennis. I know it’s not forever. I like to feel myself competitive. I like to fight for the things that I have been fighting for almost half of my life or even more.
“Hopefully is nothing too bad. In the end have been three positive weeks in terms of practice. So I really hope that that don’t put me out of the court for a long time, because then it’s tough to make all the recovery again. Is not only the recovery. It’s all the amount of work that you need to put together to come back at a decent level.
“So I went through this process too many times in my career, and I am ready to keep doing, I think, but that’s not easy, without a doubt.”
McDonald was clearly outplaying Nadal at the time of injury. The former UCLA star had his way with Rafa in the opening set. Nadal did find some form in the second but McDonald was able to re-break and was serving 4-3 just a few games from going up 2-0.
With Nadal out, the door opened that much more for the likes of Daniil Medvedev, Frances Tiafoe, Denis Shapovalov and others to get through from that top quarter. All won easy matches on a rainy Wednesday.
The second quarter also went to form as Stefanos Tsitsipas rolled, Cameron Norrie got through and Felix Auger-Aliassime battled back from two sets down to overwhelm Alex Molcan 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
While the second round began, the first round finally concluded. After a nearly 6.5 hour rain delay, matches got on the outer courts at 5:30pm local time and American men had another big day.
Today, the draws are back on schedule for the end of the second round. Novak Djokovic returns with Andy Murray who faces Australian Thanasi Kokinakkis at night. During the day it’s Alexander Zverev, Taylor Fritz and Casper Ruud who faces Jenson Brooksby.
THURSDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena – 11:00 AM
SABALENKA, Aryna  vs. ROGERS, Shelby (USA)
Not before: 12:30 PM
BROOKSBY, Jenson (USA) vs. RUUD, Casper (NOR) 
FERNANDEZ, Leylah (CAN) vs. GARCIA, Caroline (FRA) 
COUACAUD, Enzo (FRA) vs. DJOKOVIC, Novak (SRB) 
VONDROUSOVA, Marketa (CZE) vs. JABEUR, Ons (TUN) 
Margaret Court Arena – 11:00 AM
VOLYNETS, Katie (USA) vs. KUDERMETOVA, Veronika 
Not before: 1:00 PM
KONTAVEIT, Anett (EST)  vs. LINETTE, Magda (POL)
MMOH, Michael (USA) vs. ZVEREV, Alexander (GER) 
1. WS228 LIU, Claire (USA) vs. BENCIC, Belinda (SUI) 
2. MS229 MURRAY, Andy (GBR) vs. KOKKINAKIS, Thanasi (AUS)
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