Spaniard Rafael Nadal hasn’t been having any luck against American tennis players. Of his last five defeats on the circuit, four were to players from the United States, the most recent this Wednesday to Mackenzie McDonald in the second round of the Australian Open. Before, in 2022, it had fallen to Frances Tiafoe at the US Open, Tommy Paul at the Masters 1000 in Paris and Taylor Fritz in the group stage of the ATP Finals.
The only setback for someone outside the US came against Félix-Auger Aliassime, also in Turin. Not counting the two recent defeats in the United Cup, to Britain’s Cameron Norrie and Australia’s Alex de Minaur. According to McDonald himself, Rafa’s negative streak against his compatriots was an asset and he even spoke to one of his colleagues before the match.
“Yes, it happened [influenced the mental aspect]. I thought about what Taylor and Foe had done. I also talked to Tommy about this last night. It definitely gave me a little more confidence. He gave me a bit of the game plan. It wasn’t too far beyond what Robby [Ginepri, his coach] had told me. He’s one of my best friends and he said to me, ‘Man, you can do it, you just have to believe’”, revealed the 27-year-old player, ranked 65th.
“Watching him in the United Cup with de Minaur, and Norrie helped me a little too. I think that today I believed in that and I wasn’t afraid like the last time, at Roland Garros. I don’t think I was ready to do anything against him”, he recalled the defeat in Paris in 2020, when he took only four games from the Spaniard.
Faced with the biggest victory of his career, McDonald says he still doesn’t believe in the feat he achieved. “I was in the locker room and I was reflecting on how big this really is for me, as I hadn’t beaten someone of that caliber yet. I’m grateful to have had that opportunity to play on that court against him, and I feel like I can only learn from it.”