Australian Open: Rafael Nadal 'mentally destroyed' and as Emma Raducanu comes up short
Nadal, the top seed, lost 6-4 6-4 7-5 to American Mackenzie McDonald in the second round but it was in obvious pain from early in the second set, requiring treatment and limping. A retirement seemed on the cards, with the Spaniard's wife Maria crying in the stands, but he opted to continue despite his movement clearly being impeded. He later revealed he had come into the match with an issue in his hip that then became significantly worse.
“It has been a couple of days like this, but nothing like today in that movement,” he said. “We're going to start talking about that now, but I don't know what's going on, if it's muscle, if it's joint. I have history in the hip. I had to do treatments in the past, address it a little (but there) was not this amount of problem. Now I feel I cannot move. I tried until the end. But at the end, that's it. I just tried. It was not possible.”
It was a hugely sad way for Nadal to exit the tournament a year after his near-miraculous run to the title when he feared his career may have been over because of a chronic foot problem, and there must be serious doubt over whether he will play again at Melbourne Park. He went on to win a 22nd grand slam title at the French Open but has found the going tough since suffering an abdominal tear and pulling out of Wimbledon ahead of the semi-finals.
The 36-year-old said: “Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes it's difficult to accept. Sometimes you feel super tired about all this stuff in terms of injuries. In the end, I can't complain about my life at all. Just in terms of sports and in terms of injuries and tough moments, that's another one. I just can't say that I am not destroyed mentally at this time, because I will be lying.
“Hopefully it's nothing too bad. I went through this process too many times in my career and I am ready to keep doing it, I think, but that's not easy, without a doubt.”
Raducanu, ranked 77th in the world, acquitted herself well against American seventh seed Gauff but her lack of match practice was telling in her 6-3 7-6 defeat. The 20-year-old had battled an ankle injury before the tournament. The British number one’s exit means she has not reached the third round of a Grand Slam since her stunning 2021 US Open win and has yet to beat a top-ten player.
Although she is more than a year younger than Raducanu, Gauff has a lot more experience after a steadier rise up the ranks and is one of the favourites to win the tournament. Her thumping serve was one big difference between them, while physically she is more developed than Raducanu, who remains very much a work in progress.
“I told myself to hang in there, Emma played really good tennis towards the end of the match,” said Gauff. “It was a good quality match for the most part. This was a long anticipated match-up so I'm glad it was a good match for the crowd.”