McDonald’s journey from milk carton lessons to Nadal confrontation | ATP tour

Three years ago, Mackenzie McDonald played Rafael Nadal for the first time. The Spaniard was tough on the clay courts of Roland Garros, knocking out the American 6-1, 6-0, 6-3 in just one hour and 40 minutes.

“I lost that match. I said I wanted to play him on a hard court, so I think this is my chance to do it. It will be fun,” said McDonald, who will face Nadal in the second round of the Australian Open. “It will be more fun than the French Open.” .”

McDonald’s journey to this point began 24 years ago. At the age of three, his father, Michael, put Mackey in lessons with legendary trainer Rosie Barris at the Harbor Bay Club in Northern California.

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“I was so young, for so many hours. That’s some stuff people don’t really see or know about,” said MacDonald, who was so young at the time, Bryce was sitting on a milk carton. “I was just swinging the bat and she was sitting there dropping balls.” .”

The American remembers the countless hours he spent on Court 5 at the club, before moving with Paris to the Claremont Hotel. Starting in first grade, McDonald would practice several mornings each week from 6:30 am to 8:30 am

“My benchmark was the tennis court. My benchmark was skipping.” [physical education] At school and skip some other classes to go play tennis and take lessons. “You were the tennis kid in school, so that’s kind of your standard forever,” McDonald said. “I’m glad I did so well in tennis… My mom sent me this little paper thing [from when I was young] That’s what my hobbies said and literally say “I want to be a professional tennis player”, all that other stuff. It’s just funny. This is how I was groomed and raised.”

Some little ones like getting up early and getting plenty of exercise. MacDonald was not that kid.

“I was saying I was just too forced to go. Tennis, when you’re so young, for a lot of the guys out there, it’s kind of your choice before you choose it. I had the skills, I had the talent, and then you thrive on that, you run out and the whole process going through.” “I’ve had my ins and outs with tennis definitely as much as any other player. It’s a love-hate relationship, and it’s kind of a game. You love her sometimes, and you definitely hate her sometimes, but in the end she gave me my everything. All my relationships, my friends, travel. I will be forever grateful to the sport.”

<a href =Mackenzie McDonald in action during Monday’s four-hour fight against compatriot Brandon Nakashima. “/>
McDonald in action during Monday’s four-hour fight against compatriot Nakashima. Credit: Daniel Puckett/Getty Images

McDonald is also grateful to those who have helped him get to this point, from Bareis to Wayne Ferreira, who has achieved the world’s top 10 in singles and doubles. The South African, who is now working with Francis Tiafoe, trained McDonald from ages 11 to 18 in California.

“I love Wayne. I love seeing him around. I love how well he gets along with Francis. I definitely love Wayne. He’s another dad to me,” McDonald said. “I started working with him when I was 11 and at that age you don’t realize So what the hell is going on. My dad had his whole master plan and he loves what I’m doing now, but I didn’t know at the time and honestly, a lot of the things I learned from Wayne resonated more later. But he was there every step of the way, too.”

One of the things Ferreira always talked about with McDonald was how to do mental tennis. “It’s something you don’t realize, you have no idea when you’re a kid,” McDonald recalled. “He says it’s 80 percent mental. That’s something that still resonates with me today.”

Ferreira, whom MacDonald called a “great human being”, knew early on that the American was a clean tackler with good offensive instincts. The former Top Ten star remembers the advice he often gave his former stint.

“The only thing on the mental side that I tried to repeat to him as much as possible is that you can’t always be perfect every day and you’ll have a lot of bad days. What makes a great tennis player is a tennis player who can win matches on bad days,” Ferreira said. Anyone can play well when things are good, but when things are not going so well, these are the days when you obviously need to try to find your way or find the right way to win. We tried to spend a lot of time with him trying to fight hard, never give up, try to stay as long as possible and just try to win on those days he wasn’t good.

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“He does it well. There are some days where he struggles a bit with that but I think overall Maki is a good competitor. He fights really hard, he puts his head down a lot and even when things don’t go so well he competes very well and I love that about him “.

From Bareis to Ferreira, college tennis and beyond, it was all part of Michael McDonald’s “master plan,” according to Mackey. The oral surgeon wanted his son to become a professional tennis player and his daughter to become an Olympic gymnast. McKee’s sister, Dana, made the Junior Olympic team and competed in gymnastics at UCLA. Mackey attended the same school, and won the NCAA singles and doubles titles during his career.

“These were things he couldn’t do and his parents probably didn’t give him all the opportunities he was able to give us because he came from nothing and became a self-made oral surgeon, because he’s got a brain,” McDonald said. “He’s very smart. With that he made money and went from living in an apartment with no money or any resources going to school on loans and everything to giving his son tennis lessons every week and hiring Wayne Ferreira as coach… The man sacrificed everything for his kids.” “

That trip put world number 65 McDonald in position to stand a chance, as happened on Wednesday in Melbourne. The 27-year-old needed five sets and more than four hours to defeat countryman and friend Brandon Nakashima on Monday. Now he will get his second shot at Nadal, this time off the left Parisian field.

“In the back of my mind I was thinking about it for a second against B-Nak: ‘If I beat this guy, I can play Rafa.’ I saw the scores come up when he was playing Draper. Extra motivation,” McDonald said. “That’s something I will remember. I will make it unforgettable.”

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