After losing to American Mackenzie McDonald in the second round while battling an injury, Rafael Nadal’s attempt to defend his Australian Open championship was unsuccessful.
The 36-year-old Spaniard pulled up with what appeared to be a hip issue and was down a set and a break.
Near the conclusion of the second set, he requested a medical timeout and kept playing, but ultimately lost 6-4 6-3 7-5.
Since 2016, this is Nadal’s earliest exit from the Australian Open.
It was a bitter finale for Nadal after his incredible 2022, in which he defeated Daniil Medvedev in the Melbourne Cup final by rallying from two sets down and won a record-extending 14th French Open title in June.
However, he sustained an abdominal injury during a usually tenacious performance in the Wimbledon quarterfinals that prevented him from playing the remainder of the season.
He had only won two singles matches all season prior to arriving in Melbourne, and he never seemed completely at ease until he appeared to jolt his hip against McDonald.
As Nadal, a two-time champion, struggled to move on Rod Laver Arena, his wife broke down in tears, and his support group also appeared upset in the player box.
The fans applauded him as he departed the stadium after watching the match through to its conclusion, and top seed Rafael Nadal turned to wave to each corner as he did so.