By Kevin Ware
(August 13, 2013) MASON, Ohio – After stirring victories over Newport champion Nicolas Mahut and former NCAA champion Steve Johnson, NorCal’s own Mackenzie McDonald ran out of gas against Belgium’s David Goffin; losing in a straight sets 6-1, 6-1 rout.
The talent and potential of this talented 18 year-old from Berkeley, CA is obvious. He’s got a nice serve with decent “pop”, delivered reliably over 100 mph. He’s light on his feet with solid footwork around the court as he prepares for his ground strokes. And he accelerates nicely through the ball to get good depth and pace.
That wasn’t enough, however, to overcome his more experienced opponent. Goffin, himself a qualifier, was much too steady for McDonald. The Belgian ran his younger opponent from corner to corner at every opportunity, grinding him down in rallies and eventually drawing the error.
McDonald defeated Mahut in three sets on Saturday, 36 76(5) 64. He followed this win with another three-setter against Johnson on Sunday, 36 64 64. The effects of those two tough qualifying matches were apparent as the match wore on.
His crisp footwork became sluggish, and offensive play was replaced by scrambling defense. McDonald even struggled on his usually strong serve, notching just one lone ace against five double faults, and winning only 58% on first serve points and a dismal 15% on his second serve. It’s a tough ask to win matches when you’re continually on defense and unable to hold serve.
When asked about the potential effect of his difficult qualifying matches on his fitness, McDonald readily admitted his struggles. “Today I felt it a little bit physically. Not from my legs, but from my abs and from there possibly from the serving.”
And despite saying that otherwise he felt okay physically, he added, “I felt, when the points were long, I mean, I was a little winded. So I think he had that advantage over me.”
It’s often a shock for rookie players when they finally get a taste of play on the Tour level. McDonald is listed on the ATP site as 5’ 10” tall and 145 lbs. Against the equally slight 22 year-old Goffin, one could still see the physical difference with respect to the four year age difference, and also sense that a couple more years of physical maturity could make a world of difference with the proper training to back it up.
McDonald was honest in his assessment of the difference between him and the more experienced (and often older) guys on tour. “I think a lot of it has to do with physical. I think I can get a lot stronger, gain a lot more weight, and just last longer with these guys. And at an intense level, at a higher level for a longer period.”
He’s also talked to some of the other US pros and observed how they train and prepare for matches. It’s been a beneficial experience for him that he knows can help his own game. What specifically did he learn from those guys? More or less, the basics of being a professional on the ATP tour.
“I mean, a few things would be just, I mean, staying professional always. Before the matches, after the matches, win or lose, just doing the right things at all times.” When asked to elaborate on what are “the right things”, he added: “I mean stretching, doing your exercises, getting your massage after, doing the ice bath. Just that type of stuff. Eating right, all that stuff.”
Next up for McDonald is another tough test at the US Open qualifying tournament. But on this day, and after a weekend of great wins, the enduring image was of McDonald and his proud dad on the podium after the press conference for a photo-op.
They were told that Venus (Williams) would arrive in about ten minutes, but they were welcome to stay until then. Hopefully the next time they get this chance it will be to celebrate his first Tour-level main draw victory.