Rafa Nadal’s days are numbered and the end of his incredible career could come far sooner than his fans anticipate, according to Boris Becker. FOLLOW LIVE
Six-time grand slam winner Boris Becker has warned Rafa Nadal’s days are numbered amid growing fears the Spanish legend is set to retire.
Looking to defend his title at the Australian Open, Nadal was instead ousted in the second round by world No 65 Mackenzie McDonald.
It was no straight forward defeat however with Nadal pulling up injured at 6-4 5-3 in the second set. While he completed the match, the 22-time slam winner has since confirmed he will be sidelined for a few months with a hip issue.
While he dismissed talk of retirement from the sport in his press conference after his early Melbourne exit, Becker said the Big 3 era is closing.
“We’ve been talking about the change of generation for a long time, and then Nadal comes along last year and wins not only in Melbourne but also Paris,” Becker said on Eurosport.
“The question was: Will he play until he’s 40? I don’t think so. Yesterday (Nadal losing) was already the first step towards his retirement.
“An injury like that is hard, and at this age, it takes even longer to get back into shape. I hope and pray that he will get well soon and that we will see him looking fresh again in Paris at the latest, but I think his days are numbered.
“He is not only a tennis legend, he is a sports legend. He is one of the most important sportsmen of the last 25 years. He has changed tennis and made it even more popular in his home country of Spain.
“He can become the president if he wants to. I think there would be a big gap if Rafa doesn’t play anymore, but I think he will pick up a racquet again.
“The clay court season will be his priority. If he is fit, he is still my favourite for the French Open, but even Rafael Nadal gets older eventually.”
1:45PM ‘VERY SCARED’: OPEN STAR’S SERIOUS HEALTH DIAGNOSIS
Head spinning, weak muscles, mum’s tears and bullies.
Tennis star Alexander Zverev has opened up on the impact of Type 1 diabetes on his game – and how he is determined to show others that it doesn’t have to put a stop to ambition.
Zverev, 25, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was three years old, only revealing he was living with the condition last year.
The German Olympic gold medallist said the diagnosis had come as a shock, “especially to my parents”.
“My parents were very scared, obviously very worried, mum was crying a lot,” he told Nine. “A lot of parents get intimidated by a lot of doctors who say ‘your kid is very limited’, which is not the case.
“I would say to the doctors, ‘well yeah, I want to play tennis. That’s the only thing I really care about’.
“Some of them said ‘no, you have to stop, you cannot (play) … there’s no way you can be a professional athlete with this kind of illness, there’s no way you can play such a hard, physical sport’.
“This is what really stuck into my mind. It made me quite upset, as well, to be honest, because I don’t think you should set any limits to kids. It’s just not fair to them.”
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body cannot produce insulin. It is managed with insulin injections and monitoring blood sugar level.
Zverev revealed he had spent many years feeling “very uncomfortable with it”.
The grand slam finalist would leave the court to monitor his insulin levels, and when a monitor was kept in his tennis bag, social media even suggested he was attempting to cheat.
“Kids at the age of 9, 10, 11 – at times my devices were broken, my insulins were smashed,” Zverev said. “I was just uncomfortable with it. I was always trying to hide it. I wasn’t checking my insulin levels in public.
“During matches, you never saw me do a shot or anything, I was always going to the bathroom to do it which is not the right thing to do.
“Maybe I have all of that trauma from back in the days, but you should never be embarrassed of it.”
12:15PM VEKIC IS THOUGH
Donna Vekic has beaten Nuria Parrizas Diaz 6-2 6-2 to reach round 4.
A far happier end to her time on Margaret Court Arena than last time she was here.
“I am really happy with my match today,” she said. “I love this court, but last time I was here two years ago, I had a lot of pain in my knee, so I am happy to be walking out of this court playing free today.
“She is a very tricky player. I knew how I had to work very hard for every point, so I was really ready from the first point, making a lot of balls and making my way towards my game.”
This equals Vekic’s equal best ever performance at the Aus Open.
11:45AM ‘NOT SEEN SINCE HEWITT’: AUSSIE’S EPIC 18-YEAR FIRST
Alexei Popyrin is doing the unthinkable at the Australian Open and he’s back on court this evening looking to book a 4th round berth for the first time in his career.
Not since the C’mon’s of another famous Australian have we seen someone rip through the draw like this.
He’s drawing high praise.
“He’s the first Aussie since 2005 to knock out a top 10 player and a seed. Since Lleyton Hewitt. It’s quite remarkable,” Jelena Dokic says of the 23-year-old.
“It’s just a way that he’s almost been able to reinvent himself as a person and player this year. He’s won more matches this year than he did all of last year. He’s worked so hard, changed the people that he works with.
“He’s now a favourite in the next match. That is very, very different than going out and swinging freely against someone like Taylor Fritz. The mindset changes.”
10:45AM STARS CRASH OUT ON NIGHT OF SHOCKS
The Netflix curse reared its ugly head once again on Friday night with sixth seed Maria Sakkari knocked out by little-known Chinese competitor Lin Zhu.
Sakkari was the only woman left of those who featured on the first series of the new show Break Point, leaving Felix Auger-Aliassime as the last player standing.
The Sakkari boilover came on the same day last year’s finalist Danielle Collins was sent packing and a night after no.2 seed Ons Jabeur was also stunned.
It means only two of the top six seeds have advanced to round four, with Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia a chance to make that three when she faces Laura Siegemend on Sunday.
In a field already missing last year’s winner Ash Barty, as well as others due to injury, the race for the women’s crown has burst wide open.
No.1 seed Iga Swiatek continues to look a class above, but Jessica Pegula, Aryna Sabalenka and boom teen Coco Gauff now all have serious cases for a maiden grand slam triumph.
Following her 7-6 1-6 6-4 shock loss, Sakkari said she felt like it was hard to relax during the tournament and would have to analyse why she felt an inflated sense of pressure.
“Obviously, this is a grand slam, but at the same time … you have to start feeling better, and that’s something that I didn’t feel personally,” she said.
“It’s something rare because it’s different if I was, you know, at the US Open.
“I don’t know why I didn’t let myself play my game.
“I could picture myself going deep in this tournament, but for some reason things went the wrong way.”
Daniil Medvedev on Friday became the latest title contender to crash out of the men’s draw at the Australian Open, but Iga Swiatek led a charge of the women’s seeds into the last 16.Russia’s Medvedev was runner-up at the last two Grand Slams in Melbourne but his tournament ended with a whimper in round three at the hands of Sebastian Korda.
Seventh seed Medvedev followed defending champion Rafael Nadal and world number three Casper Ruud in exiting in the first week while world number one Carlos Alcaraz withdrew before the tournament began.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is now the highest remaining seed at three and the Greek star stretched his unbeaten streak this year to set up a last-16 clash with Italian Jannik Sinner.
The 24-year-old Tsitsipas, who is yet to drop a set, clinched his seventh straight win of 2023 by beating Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.
Tsitsipas is refusing to get carried away as he chases a first major title. “There are no presents,” he warned.
“You should be going after it, you should be creating those opportunities and aiming big within yourself, sometimes surpass your own abilities.” Also into the last 16 are sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and 18th seed Karen Khachanov.
10:17AM AUSSIE STAR’S SURGERY
Ajla Tomljanovic’s career-high ranking won’t go to use in the short-term, with the top-ranked Australian female sidelined for at least a few months following knee surgery.
The 29-year-old was forced to withdraw from her home grand slam on the eve of the Australian Open and revealed on Saturday that she had gone under the knife.
“This morning I had a minor procedure done on my knee that went very well,” Tomljanovic said.
“Sadly I won’t be around the next few months, but I’m happy I did the necessary steps to get fully healthy. Great things take time and rehab starts very soon!
“I can’t wait to get back out there. Appreciate all your sweet messages and words of support, doesn’t go unnoticed.”
Despite not playing at the Australian Open, Tomljanovic is on track to be ranked 32nd in the world after this tournament.
9:36AM WORST IN THE FAMILY
His own worst critic and way too hard on himself.
Sebastian Korda’s prodigious sporting family has a rich history in Australia.
As well as Petr winning his only major 25 years ago and mum Regina Rajchrtova being a Czech tennis Olympian, Sebastian claimed the junior title in 2018 and both his sisters, Jessica and Nelly, have both won the Australian Open in golf.
“It’s a special place for us. We’ve had some really great results,” Korda said.
“Hopefully I can do one better than the juniors and do it in the pros.”
He had the crowd in stitches as he added: “I don’t know what I’m going to be ranked now but my mum’s career [high] ranking was 26, my dad’s was two, my sister Nelly was number one, my older sister Jessica was sixth … so I’m definitely the worst athlete in the family so far”
8:45AM PLAYERS STILL TICKED OFF
Jamie Murray has always been vocal about his opinions and this year’s Australian Open is no different.
Much like his brother, Jamie has used his platform to back calls for a curfew at the slam after Thursday night’s 4am finish.
“Aus Open has 4 courts that they use for night sessions with a 7pm start,” he wrote.
“Start one of those courts at 8pm (ideally a women’s match as it’s shorter) and then if someone gets injured within an hour on RLA you can move the 8pm match to RLA and you don’t have an issue with refunds.”
8AM: SECRET BOND DRIVING AUS OPEN’S US REVOLUTION
There is no escaping the Americans at Melbourne Park – and a series of bonding visits to escape rooms across Australia might be behind the United States’ tennis resurgence.
For the first time since 1996, a dominant 14 stars from the US progressed into the third round at the Australian Open and — as evidenced by their padlock scribbles on TV camera lenses post-victories — they are “locked in”.
The unity was born at the United Cup, where Jessica Pegula, Taylor Fritz, Madison Keys and Frances Tiafoe spearheaded Team USA’s unstoppable charge to the inaugural title.
When Fritz sealed the crown he was headbutted by an overzealous Tiafoe.
“It was awesome until Frances headbutted me,” Fritz said.
“I have a bump on my head.”
While Fritz was the shock casualty at Melbourne Park – Alexei Popyrin became the first Aussie to beat a top-10 player since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005 – there are stars and stripes everywhere in the draw.
“Just have to stay locked,” Tiafoe said.
“It’s the whole thing with the United Cup guys. I made a joke about it with the guys, the United Cup asking them before the march, ‘Are you locked?’
“It’s definitely become a thing. I’ve been kind of living by that for a little bit.”
Tiafoe’s psychedelic ensemble has stolen headlines this week and it’s one his rivals admit they couldn’t pull off.
“Do you think I would wear that?” Englishman Daniel Evans joked this week.
“I think Frances pulls it off pretty well. He definitely has the physique to pull it off, but you wouldn’t see me wearing a singlet or whatever they’re called.”
Tiafoe has revved up the rowdy crowd at John Cain Arena and started requesting the venue for matches – just like Nick Kyrgios has previously.
But over on Rod Laver Arena two lesser-knowns took down leading contenders. For the first time in 29 years American men defeated both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds at the same major.
Back in 1994 it was Jim Courier eliminating No. 1 Pete Sampras and Aaron Krickstein eliminating No. 2 seed Michael Stich.
This time around it was Mackenzie McDonald sending No. 1 seed and defending champ Rafael Nadal packing before Jenson Brooksby turfed No. 2 seed Casper Ruud.
McDonald took notes from his countrymen’s recent wins against Nadal.
“I thought about Taylor taking him out, and Foe (Tiafoe),” McDonald said.
“I talked to Tommy (Paul) about it too last night. That definitely gave me some more confidence.”
Tiafoe tickled McDonald’s ego before he pulled off the shock of the tournament … in straight sets.
“I think it’s been a question mark how Rafa has been feeling for a little bit now,” Tiafoe said.
“I told Mackey, listen, you could join the three amigos: me, Fritz, and Tommy (Paul). We all got him (Nadal).
“Also, I told him, you’re going to be in a position to win today. GOAT wins don’t come easy. Something to tell his grandkids one day.”
Then it was Brooksby’s turn. Craig O’Shannessy – a former strategist for Novak Djokovic – loved the tactics from the 22-year-old.
“Brooksby just played 68 long rallies of nine-plus … and won FIFTY of them. Whaa?” O’Shannessy said on social media.
“He absolutely chopped Casper in the lactic-acid long rally stakes.”
On the camerarderie, Brooksby said: “I think we all push each other to really get better, regardless of each guy’s situation. I think that’s shown in a lot of the guys having strong results lately”.
In the men’s side they entered with just two players ranked in the top 30 (No. 9 Fritz and No. 17 Tiafoe) while the women’s side was far stronger, with four stars inside the top 15 (No. 3 Jess Pegula, No. 7 Coco Gauff, No. 11 Danielle Collins and No. 13 Madison Keys).
In both the States are shooting the lights out. On Friday it was a Pegula pasting as she took just 65 minutes to beat Marta Kostyuk 6-2 6-2.
It was a similar story for Gauff, who won 6-3 6-2 against fellow American Bernarda Pera.
Even “lucky loser” Michael Mmoh is still alive – and will face another American, JJ Wolf, on Saturday.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to say I’m an unlucky person for the rest of my life,” Mmoh said of his run.
As for the escape rooms? Well, Pegula is the captain behind the bonding.
“We did another escape room,” she said this week.
“We did boys versus girls and girls won, so go girls.
“It was kind of like an anti-team building experience because we kind of all wanted to kill each other at the end, but hopefully it brings us together today.”
Originally published as Australian Open 2023 day 6 live scores, results, schedule and order of play