MELBOURNE — Rafa Nadal’s Australian Open title defense lay in ruins on Wednesday after an injury-plagued defeat that shook up the men’s draw, even as rain wreaked further scheduling havoc at Melbourne Park on day three.
A wincing Nadal suffered a left hip problem midway through his 6-4 6-4 7-5 loss to American Mackenzie McDonald at Rod Laver Arena and gloomily played out the match in pain.
The result not only opens up the top half of the draw, it also hands Novak Djokovic a boost as the Serb hunts a 10th title at Melbourne Park to draw level with Nadal’s 22 major triumphs in the Grand Slam race.
For all Nadal’s struggles, hard-hitting McDonald was hugely impressive and had the better of the match before his veteran opponent broke down.
Humiliated by Nadal at the same stage of the 2020 French Open, their only previous meeting, McDonald was glad to square the ledger.
Another shock appeared set to rock Melbourne Park when Felix Auger-Aliassime went two sets down against Alex Molcan at Margaret Court Arena but the Canadian sixth seed rallied to close out the match 3-6 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-2.
There was less tension in the women’s side, as Iga Swiatek, hot favorite for the women’s title, overcame Camila Osorio 6-2 6-3 under the roof on Rod Laver Arena.
A highly-anticipated first meeting between tennis prodigies went the way of Coco Gauff, who outshone Briton Emma Raducanu to win 6-3 7-6(4) in the evening session — offering fans a glimpse of the future of women’s tennis in the post-Serena Williams era.
Daniil Medvedev stayed on course to reach a third successive final at Melbourne Park with another straight-sets victory, as the Russian flexed his muscles to ease past Australian John Millman 7-5 6-2 6-2.
Stefanos Tsitsipas was equally dominant against another home hope in Rinky Hijikata as the Greek third seed won 6-3 6-0 6-2.
Men’s dark horse Jannik Sinner, who has reached the quarter-finals of all four Grand Slams but never gone any further, also swept into the third round by waltzing past Tomas Etcheverry 6-3 6-2 6-2 on the similarly protected John Cain Arena.
Rain kept the players off the outer courts throughout the day session, however, adding to fixture congestion triggered by extreme heat and storms on Tuesday when nine matches did not get started and two could not be completed. — Reuters