Rafael Nadal injured his left hip flexor during his loss at the Australian Open and could need about six to eight weeks to fully recover, his manager said Thursday.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion had an MRI exam at a hospital in Melbourne under his doctor’s supervision on Thursday, a day after being injured during a straight-set exit against Mackenzie McDonald in the second round at Melbourne Park.
Nadal was the defending champion and seeded No. 1 in Australia.
The defending champion and No. 1 seed at Melbourne Park, a clearly hurting Nadal lost his second-round match to Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, abruptly ending his bid for a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam trophy.
It was not immediately clear what was bothering the 35-year-old Spaniard, but he pulled up awkwardly at the end of a point late in the second set against the 65th-ranked McDonald.
Nadal was visited by a trainer on the sideline, then left the court for a medical timeout. Up in the stands, his wife wiped away tears. Nadal returned to play, but was physically compromised and not his usual indefatigable self.
“He’s an incredible champion. He’s never going to give up, regardless of the situation, so even closing it out against a top guy like that is always tough,” said McDonald, a 27-year-old American who won NCAA championships in singles and doubles for UCLA in 2016. “I kept focusing on myself in the end and got through.”
This is Nadal’s earliest exit at any Grand Slam tournament since bowing out in the first round in Melbourne in 2016 against No. 45 Fernando Verdasco. That also made Verdasco the lowest-ranked player to defeat Nadal in Australia — until, of course, McDonald on Wednesday.
The 36-year-old now will head home to Spain to rest.
Nadal has lost seven of his past nine matches, dating to a fourth-round defeat at the U.S. Open in September.