Six-foot-five Max Miryni is called “The Beast.” That’s not too pleasant. Feliciano Lopez calls today’s players “monsters.” That’s not nice. But who says sports are supposed to be nice?
By tennis standards, 5’10″ Mackie McDonald is small. But today, as he played on a buggy Court 8, there was little that bugged the soft-spoken 23-year-old. Actually, McDonald was “loving it.”
Never mind that he was playing on a small court and was dwarfed by a big crane. A seven-story phone mast loomed behind him and he faced a Chilean tower across the court. His opponent, the young 22-year-old Nicolas Jarry, is ranked No. 66 and is 6’6”. It seems that 6’6” is the happening height in tennis these days – think Marin Cilic, Alexander Zverev and Sam Querrey.
Still, in the first set today, Mackie prevailed. Then Jarry went into a stratospheric zone as he bombed serves and groundies and took the racket out of Mackie’s hands. The Californian may be less than 6′, but he has guts. He scored a critical, “statement” break of serve in the first game of the fourth set that enabled him to force a fifth set. Mackie had an early break point but couldn’t convert. Then he twice came within two points of losing the match. But he clawed his way back, winning one key point after another. He blasted an incredible down-the-line running forehand that astounded Fourth of July fans from Short Hills, New Jersey to Long Beach, California who were courtside. Finally, when Mackie surged in the 19th game of the deciding set and Jarry netted a forehand, the UCLA product scored a critical break, which led to his 7-6 (5), 5-7, 3-6, 6-2 11-9 marathon win.
His former coach Wayne Ferreira, who has wins over both Sampras and Federer, noted that “confidence is a big, big part of tennis. If you start to believe that you deserve to be doing well against the best players, you can do it. He’s starting to believe he can compete at a high level. The Grigor Dimitrov match in Australia [in which Mackie won a set 6-0] was big. It made him believe that he’s better than he thought. After that, he went through a lull, but then he started winning. He just believes he is playing well. He’s doing the right things and working really hard in Orlando at the [USTA] facility. Mackie’s not really tall, so he doesn’t have such a big weapon. He has to work around what he has. They’re doing a good job trying to piece his game around it. He’s starting to think he’s good enough. That was one of his biggest problems. Today he kept his composure. He believed he could win, even though things weren’t going his way.”
Mackie concurred. He told IT, “I’m really happy I pulled that out. It was a really tough match. I played good tennis throughout and had really good energy. He was ripping the ball. I didn’t have many opportunities. At times his serve was almost unbreakable…So, I had to wait for it to die down before I could take advantage. Overall, I was pretty relaxed, but still positive and energetic in a good way. I was focusing really hard. I didn’t want to do anything too stupid on those big points. I just played really clutch.
“It’s tough with those guys whose serve is a weapon. But I have some weapons of my own and can do well with them. There are a lot of guys my height or shorter who are doing well.” Mackie gave a shoutout to his friends back in the San Francisco Bay Area, and at the Claremont Resort, where he first crafted his game. He said, “I know they’re all supporting me and now the show just goes on.”
Friday, on a huge show court, Mackie will probably face last year’s finalist, Marin Cilic. “It’s a dream come true,” gushed Mackie. “It’ll be awesome. I’m soaking everything up.”
And, come to think of it, the kid will be looking up again. Cilic is 6’6″.