MyTennisHQ Interviews: Mackenzie McDonald

Quick Facts

  • School: UCLA
  • Years at School: 2013-2016 (turned pro after junior year)
  • Current Job: Professional tennis player (career high ATP #57)


Mackenzie “Mackie” McDonald was born April 16,1995 in Piedmont, California. He attended Piedmont High School before going on to have a very successful college career at UCLA.

During his junior career, Mackie had success both in the United States and internationally. This success led him to be ranked #12 on the ITF junior world tour.  He competed in all 4 junior grand slams before going to college. Some of his best junior results include winning the Easter Bowl ITF and reaching the semifinals at the 2012 Junior Australian Open. Mackie caught a lot of people’s attention when he took out Stevie Johnson at the Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati before going to UCLA.

Upon entering college at UCLA, Mackie was ranked as the #1 incoming freshman in 2013. As a freshman, Mackie was named a singles All-American, the Pac-12 Freshman/Newcomer of the Year, and reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA singles tournament. His 18-4 dual match record earned him a ranking of #23 in the country. During his sophomore season, McDonald was once again named an All-American in singles. He was also named the Pac-12 Player of the Year while playing #1 singles and doubles for the Bruins. McDonald reached a high of #2 in the country during his sophomore year. His best results at UCLA came during his junior year when he captured both the singles and doubles championships in the NCAA Individual tournament. Playing at #1 singles and doubles, McDonald compiled a 22-1 singles record and a 19-6 doubles record. He was awarded a wildcard into the main draw at the US Open in both singles and doubles competition because of his NCAA championships.

Given these remarkable results and showing that he was dominant at the college level, Mackie decided to forgo his senior season at UCLA and turn pro. Mackie has had great success on the ATP tour, reaching a career high ranking of #57 in the world. McDonald has competed in the main draw of all four grand slams, with his best result coming at Wimbledon in 2018, where he eventually fell to Milos Raonic. Unfortunately, he was injured at the 2019 French Open and was unable to play another tournament for the rest of the year. During this sidelining, Mackie enrolled in classes at UCLA to get closer to finishing his degree.

While at UCLA, I grew close to Mackie and spent a lot of time with him, most of that time being off court. If you didn’t know who he was, you wouldn’t suspect that he was one of our game’s rising stars until you saw him crush a backhand return winner. Mackie is sure to be back stronger than ever when he is able to compete again and it is only a matter of time before everyone in the tennis world is talking about him.

Now let’s cut to the chase… we are pleased to give you our interview with: Mackie McDonald!

7 Questions With Mackie McDonald

#1) What was your recruiting/school selection process like?

I committed to UCLA during the summer of 2013. I signed in the apartment my dad and I were living in at the time in Berkeley, CAli for is. I have a long family line of Bruins including my Grandpa, Uncle, Aunt, Dad, and Sister. I was debating between three California schools with my main goal of finding the school that would best fit my personality and also assist me to become a professional tennis player. I did not seriously consider moving east of California for school, so I did not take many visits. In the end, I chose UCLA because it is a highly ranked academic university that gave me the tools I needed to become a professional.

#2) What was your favorite moment/story/aspect of college?

Looking back on my college career, I mainly miss the camaraderie with my teammates. The simple things of playing cards, hanging out in the team room, throwing ragers at the tennis house, and traveling as a team on trips. My favorite on court memories are winning the NCAA singles and doubles in 2016 and clinching the Pac-12 title under the lights in Ojai my junior year against Cal (Berkeley).

#3) How did college tennis prepare you for the rest of your career/life?

College tennis helped me prepare for the professionals. I did not believe I was ready to turn pro at the age of 18, and college was my stepping stone to develop physically and mentally all while getting a world class education. I played a ton of tennis in the three years I was attending college, which gave me experience, a competitive environment, and an understanding of my game. I learned how to work in the gym, how to manage my time, and how to work with a team as a student athlete.

#4) A lot of juniors and parents worry that tennis will suffer because of the academic demands of college. What advice would you give an 18-year old in terms of balancing academics and tennis?

I personally feel that if you are debating going to college or pro, the answer should be to go to college. 18 year olds should only go pro if there are concrete opportunities and sufficient reason behind it. That means winning a junior grand slam, being top 10 in the ITF rankings, or being a ranked professional passed the futures level. Balancing academics, tennis, and social time is an art, and it is important to learn the best ways to manage your time once you step foot on campus. That being said, I do not think you can go wrong with going to college unless you choose the wrong college for yourself.

#5) Another thing we see parents worrying about is how the social component of college will affect their kids tennis. What would you tell an 18-year old going to college in regards to having fun without compromising their tennis/academics?

I would say that the opportunity to go professional is always there once you go to college, but the door closes for a college experience once you go pro. As I said in the previous answer, balancing academics, tennis, and social time is an art, and it is very important to learn the best ways to manage your time once you step foot on campus. I also believe that going pro out of college does demand a special tennis regimen, schedule, and plan. Sacrifices need to be made in order to stand out in college, make the line up, or move on to the pros. 

Mackie spars with Roger Federer at the 2017 US Open.
Photo: youtube

#6) Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting college again today?

I do not think I would do anything differently if I could start my college career over. I think that I had a healthy balance of “being professional”, having fun, taking care of my studies, and planning my future. I went through many learning experiences that forced me to fail before I learned to succeed. I could say I would want to not have failed in some of my experiences, but looking back those moment are what motivated and drove me to become the player and person I am today.

#7) In your case, why did you think that college tennis was a good option as opposed to going directly to the pro tour?

I 100% believe that college tennis was a good option for me at the age of 18 coming out of juniors. Being on a team, competing for a school, and representing more than yourself is something you do not get to do in tennis very often. The memories I created on and off the court at UCLA are some of the most memorable moments of my life. I created relationships I will always have, and went through experiences that many professional tennis players will never encounter. I grew mentally and physically as a person and as a player. When I chose to go professional after my junior year on my terms, I committed fully and was confident that I was ready for the next level.

Austin Rapp

Hi there! My name is Austin Rapp and since I picked up a racket at age 8, I worked hard to improve my game. I was never the most talented junior, but I tried to learn the game to give myself an edge. I earned the privilege of playing at UCLA for 4 years, serving as team captain for my last 2. In my time there, I took advantage of the coaching and great talent around me to grow my knowledge of the game and became an All-American. I am currently playing professional tennis, ranked top 700 in singles and top 350 in doubles. Above all, my favorite tennis moments were hitting with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal at Indian Wells!

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