Injured Rafael Nadal loses to Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open in 2023.

Rafael Nadal’s Australian Open title defense came to an end after a second-round loss to American Mackenzie McDonald, during which he battled an injury.

The 36-year-old Spaniard was trailing by a set and a break when he pulled up with what appeared to be a hip injury.

He took a medical timeout near the end of the second set and returned to the match, but eventually fell to a 6-4 6-3 7-5 defeat.

It is Nadal’s first Australian Open exit since 2016.

It was a cruel end for Nadal after his stunning 2022 season, in which he came back from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in last year’s Melbourne final and won a record-extending 14th French Open title in June.

However, a typically tenacious performance in the Wimbledon quarter-finals resulted in an abdominal injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season.

He arrived in Melbourne having lost his only two singles matches of the season, and he never seemed completely at ease until he appeared to jar his hip against McDonald.

As the two-time champion struggled to move on Rod Laver Arena, Nadal’s wife was in tears, and his support team appeared emotional in the player box.

He left to a standing ovation from the crowd after seeing the match through to the end, with top seed Nadal turning to wave to each corner before exiting the stadium.

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