Defending champion Nadal was defeated by Felix Auger in the Australian Open, but Aliassime fought back and qualified in five sets
Despite trembling, Felix Auger-Aliassime managed to lift his head. At the second round of the Open of Australia, after trailing by two sets to none against the Slovene Alex Molcan, the Canadian, the sixth-ranked player in the world, made a stunning comeback to win in five sets (3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2).
Having already lost an opening set to his countryman Vasek Pospisil in the first tour, Felix Auger-Aliassime will need to show more consistency in his third tour, particularly in the cadence of his matches. It will take on the loser of the contest between Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina and Corentin Moutet of France.
Rafael Nadal, the defending champion, was knocked out of the Australian Open in round two by American Mackenzie McDonald, who is ranked 65th.
The 36-year-old Spanish player, who appeared to be suffering from a hip issue, lost 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 at Rod Laver Arena.
Losing gives Nadal’s arch-rival Novak Djokovic the opportunity to tie him for the most Grand Slam titles with 22 wins. The Serb has returned to Melbourne after being expelled in 2017 and missing the competition.
Rafael Nadal of Spain waves as he exits the court following his man’s singles match against Mackenzie McDonald AFP
Top seed Nadal never seemed to get comfortable, falling behind a set before needing a medical break after he broke down in the second set after hurting himself while attempting a forehand and grunting in discomfort.
He persisted despite being obviously uncomfortable due to his limited range of motion.
Mery, his wife, was spotted sobbing in the audience.
It was difficult to remain mentally focused, but McDonald managed to pull it off.
US player Mackenzie McDonald responds to a point against Rafael Nadal of Spain AFP
He is a fantastic champion who will never give up, no matter the circumstances. He kind of knocked me out of my rhythm as I was trying to keep focused, but I managed to get through it.
The previous Grand Slam in which Nadal lost so early was the Australian Open in 2016, when he was eliminated in the first round.
They had previously encountered each other in a Grand Slam second-round match. Nadal performed on that occasion at the 2020 French Open, only four games were lost in a convincing victory.
This time, McDonald always had the upper hand as Nadal was put on the back foot after being broken in his first service game and the American raced out to a 4-1 lead.
Before recovering a break, Nadal complained to the umpire that he was being hurried on his serve. At 4-5, he had another break point to even the score, but the American held on to win the set.
Despite Nadal leaving the court during the changeover, McDonald maintained to dominate as Nadal’s serve once more failed to fire, breaking early.
The Spaniard was in uncertain terrain, but as he frequently does, he managed to claw back and At 2-2, the set is even.
However, mistakes started to return, and he was broken once more before hurting himself at 15-30 in the eighth game, which he eventually lost before stumbling back to his seat.
The physio was called, and his wife Mery was seen crying in the players’ box as he left the court for a medical timeout while uttering “hip” in Spanish.
Rafael Nadal of Spain receives medical attention while playing Mackenzie McDonald in the men’s singles match.
He came back and cheerfully continued, but he was only a shell of the man he once was.
On the same court the previous year, Nadal made history by defeating Daniil Medvedev in the final in five sets.
He was able to break the record for the most Grand 21 Slam singles titles for men, more than Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer combined.
At Roland Garros, he added a 22nd, while Djokovic won Wimbledon and advanced to 21.