Diminished by a painful hip, defending champion Rafael Nadal was eliminated in the second round of the Australian Open on Wednesday in Melbourne, where world No.1 Iga Swiatek quietly qualified, on a new day. disturbed by rain.
. Nadal out
“I couldn’t hit backhand or run, but I wanted to finish the game. As the defending champion, I didn’t want to give up,” Rafael Nadal said minutes after limping off the beaten Rod Laver court. by American Mackenzie McDonald (65th) 6-3, 6-3, 7-5.
Injured in the left hip since the end of the second set, the 36-year-old Spaniard has only postponed an inevitable outcome as best he can.
He tried not to show anything, but those close to him knew: when he went out, 3-5 in the second set, to have his hip manipulated, his wife shed a few tears and his coach Carlos Moya was clearly disillusioned .
The man with 22 Grand Slam titles gritted his teeth until the end, trying everything for almost every shot in order to shorten the exchanges. But there was no miracle.
“He’s an incredible champion, who never gives up and even then he’s hard to beat,” McDonald said.
Swiatek for the women and Jannik Sinner for the men quickly and calmly validated their ticket for the third round.
The Pole authoritatively dismissed the Colombian Camilla Osorio (84th) 6-2, 6-3.
“It was much harder than the score suggests”, however underlined the world N.1.
“She didn’t give me a lot of points, I really had to take the initiative and go for the win,” added the 21-year-old, semi-finalist in Melbourne last year.
Swiatek will face the Canadian Bianca Andreescu (43rd), winner of the US Open 2019, or the Spaniard from the qualifications Cristina Bucsa (100th) on Friday.
For his part, Sinner (16th) did not experience the slightest difficulty against the Argentinian Tomas Etcheverry (79th), beaten 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
In the next round, the 21-year-old Italian will face the Hungarian Marton Fucsovics (78th) or the South African Lloyd Harris (186th).
Last year, he established himself among the best, notably reaching the quarter-finals at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
Between the experienced Maria Sakkari (6th) – semi-finalist at Roland-Garros and the US Open, 8th finalist in Melbourne in 2022 – and the young Russian Diana Shnaider (106th), who played her first main draw at 18 of a Grand Slam tournament, the match seemed unbalanced.
But the 27-year-old Greek was surprised by the aggressiveness of an opponent she discovered and took 2h33 to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.
“She forced me to defend a lot, which is not my game,” said Sakkari, believing that the two players had “played at a very high level”.
Moreover, despite the defeat, the young Russian, who is studying in the United States at the University of North Carolina, came out to the ovations of the Margaret Court Arena, enough to draw a broad smile on her face.
For her part, Sakkari will continue her journey on Friday against the Swiss Jil Teichmann (33rd) or the Chinese Lin Zhu (87th).
Even more difficult was the qualification of Félix Auger-Aliassime who had to go back two sets to beat the Slovak Alex Molcan (53rd) 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
The 21-year-old Canadian, who began with a memorable five-set showdown with Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-finals, will face Frenchman Corentin Moutet (62nd) or Argentinian Francisco Cerundolo (29th) to try to climb into 8th finals.
The American Jessica Pegula (3rd) displayed on her outfit a “number 3” in tribute to her compatriot Damar Hamlin, the American football player who suffered a heart attack in the middle of a match on January 2.
“It’s a sign of support after the tragic accident” of Hamlin wearing the number on his Buffalo Bills jersey, Pegula said after her 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) win over Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich ( 38th).
On January 2, Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the Cincinnati field following a tackle. After a few days of hospitalization, he was able to return to Buffalo, where he continues his convalescence.
As for Pegula, she will face the Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk (61st) or the Australian Olivia Gadecki (199th) on Friday.