Australian Open men's top seed Rafael Nadal's title defence came to an end following a straight sets loss to Mackenzie McDonald on Wednesday. The Spaniard played through an injury sustained in the second set to complete the match, but went down 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in two hours and 32 minutes.

It was heartbreaking for the Spaniard as he seemed to have injured his hip while reaching for a forehand while down 4-3 in the second set. Nadal's wife, Xisca Perello, was in tears in the stands as her husband left for a medical timeout.

Nadal refused to retire and fought through the pain, but was unable to prevent the American from triumphing in straight sets. The 22-time men's singles Grand Slam champion credited McDonald for his game before admitting that his injury made it impossible to move.

"He played some good tennis, I wasn't playing that well and at some point... that was the end. It's the hip," Nadal told reporters after his loss.

"I thought about retiring, I was not able to hit the backhand or run at all, but I wanted to finish the match. I didn't ask my team if I should retire or not. I'm old enough to take my decisions. Didn't want to retire as the defending champion," he added.

Fears are growing that it could have been Nadal's final appearance at the Rod Laver Arena, especially with the mounting injury troubles in recent months. The Spaniard had a start-stop 2022 season owing to a similar injury, and Nadal fans will be hoping it is not the case again in 2023.''

Nadal accepts that it is mentally draining to continue dealing with injury issues. He is hoping he can recover both physically and mentally and return to the tour in the not so distant future.

"Sometimes it's difficult to accept and you feel super tired about all these injuries. Now it's a tough moment and I have to accept and keep going. I can't say I'm not destroyed mentally because I would be lying. Hopefully nothing too bad," he concluded.

Nadal's loss in the second round will see him lose a big chunk of ATP ranking points. The Spaniard will drop from his current world number two standing when the new rankings arrive, but is expected to maintain his place in the top eight for the moment.

Rafael Nadal returns to the scene of one of his greatest Grand Slam triumphs when the Australian Open begins on Monday
Rafael Nadal suffered a straight set loss in the second round of the 2023 Australian Open bring his title defense to an end. AFP News