For Mackenzie McDonald, The End Of Wimbledon Could Be A Beginning
The 23-year-old is in line to become the next star of American tennis.
By Art Spander
WIMBLEDON, England — It was an end for the kid, Mackenzie McDonald, at Wimbledon. But in truth it was a beginning, a strong one, a step forward in a tennis career of possibility.
“He’s going to have a chance to do well,” said Milos Raonic.
He didn’t do that well on Monday. Which wasn’t a surprise. A former finalist, the No. 13 seed, a man with a thundering serve — there was a 138 mph clocking — Raonic beat McDonald, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-2.
But McDonald did well in his first Wimbledon, getting through the first week, making it to the fourth round, being a part of Manic Monday with the top guns, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams.
Which maybe wasn’t a surprise either. “He’s solid from the back,” said Raonic, meaning the backcourt.
“I thought I played some really good tennis this week,” 23-year-old McDonald said in reflection. “Yeah. Just excited. Hopefully it just keeps going.”
McDonald lives and trains in Florida now, at the U.S. Tennis Association complex. But he was born and grew up in Piedmont, Calif., taking lessons from Rosie Bareis and Wayne Ferreira, a 1994 Wimbledon quarterfinalist who is from South Africa but resides in Northern California.
“I used to practice really early in the morning, 6:30,” said McDonald. “Three times a week. I remember in first grade doing it with Rosie. It was a lot of hours. She would sit on a milk carton and drop balls. She was tough on me.”
As we’ve heard, becoming a champion is not easy.
“We had all these running drills,” McDonald remembered. “And jump rope.”
McDonald went to UCLA, won the 2016 NCAA singles champion and then, at 5-foot-10 in a sport with more and more big men, turned pro. As expected, it has been a learning process. Also, against the 6-foot-5 Raonic, a guessing process, wondering where the next ball would land.
“Placement and speed,” said McDonald of what makes Raonic’s serves so effective. “Honestly I had never faced a server like that before. I feel like I’m a good returner, but I have never felt so uncomfortable out there returning.
“I didn’t have one break point. I have never played a match where I have never had a break point before.”
It would be like a batter coming up from Triple A and facing Nolan Ryan. A 138 mph serve by Raonic? “I’ve never faced anything like that,” McDonald confirmed.
But he did face it, did make to the second week, did get to drink in the atmosphere on Middle Sunday, when no fans are allowed and the All England Lawn Tennis Club virtually belongs to the contestants.
“Sunday was really cool,” said McDonald. “I hadn’t obviously experienced anything like that. It was nice to have a relaxing day.”
With his name, McDonald would fit in at next week’s British Open golf tournament at Carnoustie, Scotland.
“I’m 25 percent Scottish,” said McDonald about his heritage, “25 percent English and half Chinese.”
The UCLA coach, Billy Martin, a onetime Tour player, told USA Today’s Dan Wolken that he has known McDonald since McDonald was 7 years old and playing in events with Martin’s son. It didn’t hurt that McDonald’s father, Mike, went to UCLA.
A writer asked McDonald whether he or other players took any aspect of Federer’s game after watching the world’s No. 1 player.
“I have learned from him,” said McDonald, “but I haven’t studied him … He’s obviously a great player. He’s efficient, moves well, serves well, does everything the best. So I mean, there is a lot to take from him. I mean, specifically nothing.”
You have or you don’t. Asking others how Federer does it would be like asking how Picasso did it.
How did Mackenzie McDonald do it at his first Wimbledon?
“It’s really a dream come true,” he said. “I hope it’s just a start.”