In addition to the three Chinese wild cards in the main draw, home fans at the Rolex Shanghai Masters have found a new hero to cheer for, Chinese-American Mackenzie McDonald. Known as “Mackie” to his friends, Chinese fans have come to call the 23-year-old “McDonald Bro”, a nod to their shared ethnic heritage as well as the popular fast food chain which has 2,500 locations across China.
“It fits me well and it has a California vibe,” McDonald laughed upon learning of his local nickname.
Born in California to a Scottish-English father and a Chinese mother, McDonald had never been to China before this year. McDonald opened his Chinese campaign in Guangdong, where his grandparents are from, coming through qualifying to reach the second round in Shenzhen.
“I definitely am proud of my Asian heritage,” he said. “I’ve got my mom here supporting me and her parents are from China. I was really excited about this trip from the start. I’ve loved it so far. The fans have been really great. I feel like I’m growing a fan base here which is pretty cool. I feel like the courts are really suited for my game which makes me want to play more in Asia in the future.”
Coached in his junior years by former South African pro Wayne Ferreira, McDonald went through the American college system, winning the prestigious National Collegiate Athletic Association Tennis Championship in singles and doubles in 2016.
However, McDonald decided to put his senior year on hold to join the tour full-time which has seen him vault nearly 100 spots this year to his current ranking of world No. 78. McDonald started 2018 off with a bang, playing his way through qualifying at the Australian Open and taking Grigor Dimitrov to 8-6 in the fifth set in a second-round loss. McDonald then played Challengers in Asia, parlaying a main entry berth at Wimbledon all the way to the Round of 16 where he took a set off Milos Raonic.
On Monday at the Rolex Shanghai Masters, McDonald exacted his revenge, upsetting the No. 14 seed in three sets, to further extend his time in China.
McDonald has made time to see the hit movie “Crazy Rich Asians” with his mom, a story he was able to relate to being an Asian-American traveling to this part of the world. He said: “I just feel like everything’s about family. It’s a big part of our culture.”
Despite being a modest 178cm, McDonald’s game is based on hard, flat groundstrokes and frequent forays to the net. He feels he has a “great volley game” and says it’s exciting for fans to see that, adding that when he is “playing my best tennis, I come to net a lot”.
McDonald’s full game will be on display when he takes on 2016 finalist Roberto Bautista Agut in the second round.