Bringing a “no fear” mindset and tips from fellow Americans, Mackenzie McDonald erased a French Open nightmare by knocking an injury-hampered Rafa Nadal out of the second round at the Australian Open on Wednesday.
At Roland Garros in 2020, McDonald took only four games off Nadal in a centre-court humiliation, the pair’s first and only meeting until their rematch at Melbourne Park.
Two-and-a-half years on, the world number 65 completed a 6-4 6-4, 7-5 win at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday to end the Spanish great’s title defence and bid for a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam triumph.
Though Nadal’s left hip broke down late in the second set, leaving him limping and pained, McDonald was already well on top, having broken the 36-year-old four times and dominated him from the baseline.
McDonald had plenty of inspiration from his American colleagues to draw on, with a slew of them scalping Nadal last year.
Frances Tiafoe upset Nadal in the U.S. Open fourth round, while Taylor Fritz beat him at the ATP Finals and Indian Wells.
Tommy Paul also took Nadal down at the Paris Masters.
Keeping up the American streak against Nadal was playing on McDonald’s mind.
“I thought about Taylor taking him out, yeah and ‘Foe,” McDonald told reporters after setting up a third-round match against Japanese 31st seed Yoshihito Nishioka.
“I talked to Tommy about it, too, last night. That definitely gave me some more confidence.
“I think today I had that belief, and I showed that, and I took it to him.
“I didn’t fear it this time as last time at the French. I don’t think I was quite ready to do anything against him (there).”
Tiafoe, who beat Chinese qualifier Shang Juncheng to join McDonald in the third round, gave his compatriot a pep talk before Nadal.
“I told Mackey: ‘Listen, you could join the three amigos, you know: me, Fritz, and Tommy. We all got him. I don’t know if you want to join it,” Tiafoe told reporters.
“Also, I told him, ‘You’re going to be in a position to win today. You can win today.’
“Seeing how he feels, I’m happy for Mackey. GOAT wins don’t come easy.
“Something to tell his grandkids one day, and you have to be happy for that guy.”