Rafael Nadal's defence of the Australian Open crown ended on Wednesday after a straight sets defeat to American Mackenzie McDonald.
The battling victory by Nadal against Daniil Medvedev in the 2022 final was an early sporting highlight of the year, but his persistent injury troubles have resurfaced in recent months, and they would reappear once more in Melbourne during Wednesday's game.
Nadal would pull up with a hip injury in the third set, an injury that would ultimately seal his fate, as he exited the first Grand Slam of the year in straight sets.
Nadal's Australian Open defence ends in second round
Rafael Nadal has suffered with many injury problems during his career, and his form of late has suffered as a result of an abdominal injury picked up at Wimbledon last year.
The Spaniard is vying with Novak Djokovic to finish his career as the winningest Grand Slam player of all time, with 22 titles to his name so far.
He will not add a third Australian Open crown to that list in 2023, however, after another injury-ridden match at the Rod Laver Arena against American Mackenzie McDonald.
Nadal would pull up with what the commentators described as a "new" injury in the third set, with McDonald already leading 2-0 in sets.
— Eurosport (@eurosport) January 18, 2023
It would prove to be the final nail in the coffin for Nadal, though he refused to retire from the match. He bravely battled on and held serve until the closing stages of the third set, and would ultimately go down 6-4 6-3 7-5 in Melbourne.
Wimbledon 2022, and even his victory at Roland Garros last year, were both marred by injuries, as Nadal battles to go down as tennis' most decorated player.
After receiving a standing ovation from the crowd, he would go on to explain why he did not retire from Wednesday's ultimate defeat. Nadal said:
I am old enough to take my own decisions. I didn't want to retire, being the defending champion here. I didn't want to leave the court with a retirement. Better like this.
In the end, I lost. Nothing to say but congratulate the opponent. That's sport. You try your best - in the end, it doesn't matter the chances you have, but the philosophy of the sport, the essence of the sport. I try to follow that through all my tennis career, and tried as well not to increase the damage.
Nadal has several months to recover before the French Open gets underway on the 28th of May.
Australian Open round up
Elsewhere on Wednesday overnight Irish time, Félix Auger-Aliassime would progress to the third round of the Australian Open after battling back from two sets down to take a 3-6 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 victory over Alex Molcan. Frances Tiafoe and Jannik Sinner joined Auger-Aliassime and McDonald in the third round after victories in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The big news in the women's singles came with the second round exit of Petra Kvitova, Australian Open finalist 2019. She exited after a 7-5 6-4 defeat to Ukraine's Anhelina Kalinina. Number 1 seed Iga Swiatek, and third seed Jessica Pegula, both progressed to the third round after straight sets victories.
Games continue throughout Wednesday morning, with a mouthwatering tie between Emma Raducanu and Coco Gauff the highlight. Last year's men's singles runner up Daniil Medvedev is also in action against home favourite John Millman.