Challenger Q&A: McDonald Reflects On First Challenger Title In Fairfield
McDonald had previously never advanced to a Challenger final, but he would thrive at the Northbay Healthcare Men's Pro Championships, dropping just one set en route to lifting his first trophy. The Northern California native provided a positive moment for the local community, which had been dealing with devastating wildfires throughout the week.
Mackie, which was a bigger weight off your shoulders - finally getting past the semi-finals of a Challenger or lifting the trophy?
I'm pretty satisfied with both. I'd like to say the title, but I've been in a lot of semi-finals and it was nice to get past that stage.
You also got past Tennys Sandgren (in the second round), having been 0-5 against him. A lot of milestones for you this week. What is this moment like for you?
I'm pretty aware. These past few weeks have had some milestones for me. Taking out Darian King in Tiburon after facing him last year and then beating Sandgren here, I was very happy about that one. I just feel like I've been working really hard with my coach. We've worked on so many things with my game and mentally too, I came out very composed. That was the extra thing that I needed.
You had two really tough losses recently. Sandgren in Tiburon and having match points last week against Michael Mmoh. How did you mentally reframe this for yourself, coming into this week?
Those were very tough matches. I lost both in tie-breaks. I talked with my other coach, Wayne, and he told me to just keep plugging away. Just stay persistent and that's what I did out here. That's all I can do, taking it one match at a time. For me, I'm trying to just enjoy what I'm doing. The rest will come.
It seems like you've been more aggressive in getting to net and ending points faster. Is that the main technical thing you guys have been doing?
That's definitely my go-to game style that I can execute. I like to come to the net and it's about getting there. Stepping in for balls from the baseline and being aggressive. I feel consistent with it too and that's the big thing for me. Always looking for those opportunities. Matt has a great eye for the game and he's been helping me so much.
It's hard to implement changes like that, where you're trying to move forward while playing big matches. You're going to have some days where you're not good at it. You have to trust that process. How difficult has it been mentally the past couple of weeks with those losses?
I feel like I've been serving better, so that gives me more confidence where I don't have to just rely on my game from the back of the court. I can, if I need it, but I do feel like I have some options on the court. Sometimes I need to grind and sometimes I need to be aggressive. Hopefully I'm serving well and most of the time I'm returning well. I just thought I put it all together this week.
In the final, Bradley struggled from the start, but you pushed the pressure. In the second set, it looked like you wanted to hit a return winner right away and make it known that you were going to stay aggressive.
I wanted to stay aggressive and not just make balls. I stayed with that despite not serving well. I was a little nervous and I'm sure Brad was too. I was able to compose myself quicker and once I got my feet under me and started to feel the ball better, I cruised from there.
You had family and friends come out this week. What is it like to have people that support you here for your first title?
I'm pretty fortunate. I have a lot of great people behind me, in my corner. They definitely have my best interests and I've built a great team around me. I'm happy with that. They're all looking out for me.
How do you celebrate?
With a flight to Vegas, which sounds exciting, but it's actually for a tournament. I'm flying with a USTA trainer so hopefully we'll get a good dinner if we don't get in too late.