Rafael Nadal suffers ‘technical knockout’ at Australian Open – ‘It’s a sad sight’

Rafael Nadal takes a break

Mackenzie MacDonald deserved a lot of credit for beating an injured Rafael Nadal, but pundits Tim Henman and Mats Wilander admit the Spaniard’s latest setback was “horrible to see”.

Defending champion Nadal struggled with a hip problem as he crashed out of the Australian Open on Wednesday, going down in three sets against the world No 65.

MacDonald took charge early on as he dominated the first set and a half and was in control by the time Nadal suffered a hip flexor injury in the second set.

He then held his nerve against the limping Nadal to secure a 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 victory at Melbourne Park.

Former British No 1 Henman had nothing but praise for the American although he lamented Nadal’s injury.

“Mackenzie McDonald deserves a lot of credit because he was up on that baseline and the one dictating, which was kind of the outcome,” he said on Eurosport.

“It was horrible to see – we’ve seen Nadal deal with so many injuries during his career but on this stage after his performance 12 months ago, to suddenly pull up… When he pulled up that sharply, we thought the writing was on the wall but McDonald still had to keep his focus and at the end of the day he deserved his victory.

“It’s one of those nightmare injuries. The game is physical for everyone and movement is important but when you get that sharp pain, it’s not good news because you think you’ve pulled something. We were watching and thinking this is not looking good. It’s a sad sight.”

Seven-time Grand Slam winner Wilander explained how the explosiveness of today’s tennis contributed to Nadal’s injury.

“There’s a lot of bad luck involved when you get injured, but you have to look at what happened and Rafa got pushed out to his forehand corner a little too much because of Mackenzie’s inside out forehand,” he said.

“Rafa has to run for it and eventually he gets hurt so in my eyes it’s a technical knockout, probably because we’re watching a man who is 36-years-old and hasn’t played enough matches, but it’s down to a lot of bad luck obviously.”

The former world No 1 added: “No-one got a hip flexor [injury] in the 80s as the game wasn’t quick enough. There were times when you ran 100% for something but the steps in between shots were never explosive enough to hurt yourself.

“The game today is so different and it can happen at any time. It’s so much faster and you need to push off immediately and there is a lot of luck involved.”

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