MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A return to elite-level tennis is a long way off for Mackenzie McDonald, who beat defending champion Rafael Nadal showed just how much things have changed for the 27-year-old Californian. is a college star at UCLA.
To understand McDonald’s journey, go back to the 2019 French Open, where he tore his hamstring tendon in three matches and reached the first-round doubles match. The surgery for this left him unable to walk for several weeks and left MacDonald with what he described as a “massive scar”. The whole incident also served as “a huge wake-up call,” he said.
Returning to the French Open in 2020, McDonald, whose ranking dropped to 236th, got his first chance to confront Nadal. MacDonald talked about having a good time before that game — then went out and lost 6-1, 6-0, 6-3.
Fast forward to this week at Melbourne Park, where McDonald watched his rematch with 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal on Wednesday, a far cry from the initial meeting in Paris less than 2.5 years ago.
“Before, I wasn’t really ready to beat someone like that — didn’t even believe I could,” McDonald told The Associated Press after winning the second inning 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 . Against Nadal, who was well behind the scoreboard when he sought treatment late in the second set, it turned out to be a left hip flexor injury.
“I believed in it more — and proved it,” said McDonald, who won the NCAA singles and doubles titles in 2016. “I’m on a mission, not on vacation.”
He has twice reached the fourth round of major tournaments, at Wimbledon in 2018 and the Australian Open in 2021.
McDonald, now No. 65, will play No. 31 seed Yoshito Nishioka of Japan in a third-round match at Melbourne’s Court 3 on Friday afternoon (sometime after 10:30 p.m. ET). Try again to at least do that. Thursday).
MacDonald was part of a group of U.S. men who advanced to the third round, many through surprise victories, including Jason Brooksby, Tommy Brooksby, who beat No. 2 seed Casper Lutheran on Thursday. Paul, Ben Shelton, JJ Wolfe and Michael Mummer.
McDonald, coached by 2005 US Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri, used his flat stroke to great effect on the slower hard courts of Rod Laver Arena. Top seed Rafael Nadal praised the American for “playing at a high level”.
MacDonald is the latest American to win against Nadal, joining Taylor Fritz at Indian Wells, Francis Tiafoe at the U.S. Open and Paul at the Paris Masters.
McDonnell said Tiafoe told him, “Get on it!” Paul offered “quite a lot” of advice in a FaceTime chat the night before Wednesday’s game.
MacDonald spoke to folks back home after pulling off a victory he considered a “first” in tennis achievement.
“Everyone was super proud and rooting for me … but obviously, there was another game to play,” McDonald said, “so I had to refocus.”
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