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Injured Nadal makes early Australian Open exit, Gauff edges Raducanu

Martin Parry
18 January 2023, MVT 18:45
Spain's Rafael Nadal waves as he leaves after his men's singles against Mackenzie McDonald of the US on day three of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 18, 2023. - Defending champion and top seed Rafael Nadal crashed out of the Australian Open in round two to 65th-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald in a major upset Wednesday, his worst Grand Slam result in seven years. -- Photo: Martin Keep / AFP
Martin Parry
18 January 2023, MVT 18:45

Defending champion Rafael Nadal hobbled out of the second round in a huge upset at the Australian Open on Wednesday, as Coco Gauff beat Emma Raducanu in a battle of the rising stars.

Nadal's wife Mery was in tears as the injury-hampered Spanish great lost to 65th-ranked Mackenzie McDonald at Rod Laver Arena, where the roof was closed because of more rain in Melbourne.

The 36-year-old Nadal was clearly hindered by a hip issue that required a medical timeout, as he surrendered 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 to the American.

It was the reigning champion's earliest exit from a major in seven years and will lead to more questions about whether injury and age are catching up with the record 22-time major champion.

The men's title now looks Novak Djokovic's to lose.

Nadal said defeat "hurt" and acknowledged that injuries were taking a toll.

"I've never been in a position to complain, life has given me so many positive things that I have no right to complain," he said.

"(But) I am tired, I am sad, I am disappointed, all this is a reality.

"From here on... what I want is to continue playing tennis. Don't think I'm saying all this because I want to take a step back.

"It is not the case, but my current feelings are bad."

In contrast to Nadal's disappointment and pain, 27-year-old McDonald is into the third round and a match against Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan.

"He's an incredible champion, he's never going to give up regardless of the situation," said McDonald of his beaten opponent.

"I was trying to stay focused on what I was trying to do and he kind of got me out of my rhythm, and I just got through it."

Melbourne's famously fickle weather played more havoc.

On Tuesday play on most courts was stopped because of extreme heat, and then matches were suspended later in the day on the outside courts by heavy rain.

More rain fell on Wednesday as organisers frantically tried to clear a backlog of matches.

Only matches on the three main stadiums, which have roofs, were able to begin on time. The outside courts belatedly saw action, but six hours of play was lost.

The Italian 15th seed Jannik Sinner, 16th seed Frances Tiafoe and sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime all won.

So too did Daniil Medvedev, the losing finalist at the past two Australian Opens, who overcame a partisan crowd to dismiss Australian wildcard John Millman 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.

Seventh seed Medvedev is another who will fancy his chances now that Nadal is on his way home.

'We were nervous'

The 18-year-old American Gauff, seen as the heir to now-retired Serena Williams, defeated Britain's Raducanu 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).

There are 70 places separating seventh seed Gauff and 2021 US Open champion Raducanu in the current rankings, but you wouldn't have known it as the pair tussled for an hour and 42 minutes of pulsating tennis on Rod Laver Arena.

It was a first-ever meeting between the two and a glimpse of an exciting future for women's tennis.

The two good friends went toe-to-toe throughout, exchanging service breaks, but the turning point came in the second set when the American grittily saved two set points at 4-5.

Gauff then edged past the Briton on her third match point in the tiebreak before they embraced warmly at the net.

"The whole match was great and considering the circumstances I can imagine both of us was nervous. This was a long-anticipated match-up since the draw came out," said Gauff.

Earlier, world number one Iga Swiatek and dangerous American Jessica Pegula led the charge into the third round.

Polish title favourite Swiatek swept past Colombia's Camila Osorio 6-2, 6-3 while third seed Pegula downed Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2, 7-6 (7/5).

Greece's Maria Sakkari also went through, but she looked anything but the sixth seed in a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 struggle against Russian qualifier and college student Diana Shnaider.

Sakkari was irked by Shnaider's fist pumps and celebratory screams, before finding her composure.

"During a match, you can be very pumped," Sakkari said. "But the way that some players celebrate their points, it's not appropriate. I wasn't happy with that."

©Agence France-Presse

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