When Mackenzie McDonald went to bed on Thursday night in Zhuhai, all the American was hoping for was a decent night’s sleep after battling to overcome jetlag following his arrival in China.
By the time the American awoke to prepare for his second round match in the Huafa Properties Zhuhai Championships against Kimmer Coppejans, McDonald had become an internet hero.
Footage of the Zhuhai Championships sixth seed giving emerging Chinese sensation Shang Juncheng a piggyback ride back to his chair after their match had gone viral on social media sites.
The 28-year-old was praised for his display of sportsmanship, which earned him applause on and off the court.
But after his 4-6 6-3 6-2 defeat of Coppejans, McDonald said he was simply trying to assist his rival.
“I guess it probably needs some context, because it looks like I just ran straight at him,” McDonald said.
“I knew he was struggling and cramping, and I have been there, and so he wasn’t coming to the net, clearly.
“So I ran to him to shake his hand and say, ‘Good match’. And he didn’t even say, ‘Good match’. He said, ‘Help me get to the bench.’”
McDonald, who defeated Shang 6-4 6-7 (3) 6-3, did not need to be asked twice.
“I knew he was in need of help, so I turned around and said, ‘Hop on’. He jumped on my back and I took him over to his bench, but he said he wanted to shake the refs’ hand. That was kind of it.”
The Pepperstone ATP Rankings No.39 said the pair enjoyed a laugh about the incident in the locker rooms after the match, though McDonald said he did have sympathy for his younger rival.
“We were laughing about it later on in the locker room. It was pretty funny,” he said.
“But when you are cramping like that, well, I have been there. But it probably looked pretty funny. It was. It was hilarious. But I was just trying to help him out.”
Shang said after the match that the act of sportsmanship by McDonald typified his character.
“Macky is super nice. I think he's an amazing person and of course, he plays great tennis and everything," he said.
"It was a good battle and he fought to the end. I think I did too. Everyone … that came here, they
wanted a good show and I think we gave them that.