Rafael Nadal’s hopes of winning a third Grand Slam title in 2022 came to an end as American Frances Tiafoe produced a brilliant performance to win her last-16 US Open clash in four sets.
Nadal, who was aiming for a record 23rd Grand Slam title, looked dejected after the loss, saying he needed to fix “life” and he “don’t know” when he will be back.
The Spaniard was clearly hampered by abdominal tension which forced him to retire ahead of his Wimbledon semi-final in July, but showed his signature fighting spirit to put on an exciting show on Arthur Ashe Court.
However, Tiafoe’s shot proved too much for the Spaniard to overcome, and the American came back from a breakdown in the fourth set to seal a 6-4 4-6 6-4 6-3 victory in three hours and 33 minutes.
Tiafoe is only reaching the second Grand Slam quarter-final of his career, having reached the last eight at the Australian Open in 2019, and will next face Andrey Rublev after the Russian knocked out Britain’s No.1 Cameron Norrie in straight sets earlier Monday.
“I’m beyond happy, I’m almost in tears. I can’t believe it,” Tiafoe said on the pitch in his post-match interview. “He’s definitely one of the greatest of all time. I played amazing tennis today, but I really don’t know what happened.
“I went out without giving Rafa all the respect, I went out to win a tennis match in front of you guys.”
Tiafoe vs Nadal: Match Stats
|50%||1st serve in percentage||52%|
|76%||1st serve winning percentage||73%|
|60%||2nd serve winning percentage||56%|
|4/7||Break points earned||2/6|
|119||Total points earned||110|
Despite only playing one match before the US Open after withdrawing from Wimbledon, Nadal, who won the Australian Open and French Open earlier this year, had struggled in the first three rounds in New York to extend his Grand Slam winning streak to 22 games.
The nature of his apparent physical difficulties in Monday’s loss has cast doubt on his likelihood of playing again this year, with the Spaniard currently set to feature in the Laver Cup in London later this month.
“I have to go back. I need to fix things, life, so I don’t know when I’m going to come back,” Nadal said. “When I feel like I’m ready to compete again, I’ll be there.”
“I will try to be mentally ready,” he added. “When I feel like I’m ready to compete again, I’ll be there.
“Tennis is a positional sport. You have to be very, very fast and very young.
“I wasn’t able to create the damage I used to do.”
The 36-year-old hadn’t been at his best in the early rounds at Flushing Meadows, and his serve continued to slip, as he appeared to be comfortable leading it only into Tiafoe’s backhand .
Although Nadal was clearly not working at full throttle, the whole game was fiercely competitive, with Tiafoe taking advantage of the only break point in the first set to take it 6-4.
Nadal left the field for a medical timeout at the end of the first game and came out more aggressive in the second, eventually striking as Tiafoe served to stay at 4-5.
Buoyed by a crowd that contained plenty of support for either player, Tiafoe refused to drop his level and broke again at 3-3 to go forward, before twice holding the serve to restore his lead.
There was drama at the start of the fourth, as with the build-up of clouds tournament officials made the decision to close the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof to avoid a repeat of the scenes earlier in the day when ‘a wet court had led to a 45 minute delay.
Rather than wait five minutes while the roof closed, a decision was made for play to continue, and Tiafoe, possibly impacted by the changing conditions, was broken to give Nadal a 3-1 lead. .
The American was visibly furious and earned himself an audible obscenity warning after directing a tirade at referee Carlos Bernardes.
However, Tiafoe quickly regained his focus and won five straight matches – including three successive breaks – to seal a win that made him the youngest American to reach the US Open quarter-finals since Andy Roddick was a finalist in 2006.
“When I came on the scene I felt like a lot of people were expecting me to do and stuff like that,” the 24-year-old said. “I wasn’t ready for that, mentally I wasn’t mature enough for those times, and for the last two years when it hasn’t been on me, I’ve been able to develop myself.
“I’ve got a great team behind me and I’ve got my head down. I’m happy where I am in life in general. I’m able to do myself, do it my way and enjoy the game I have. ‘love .”
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US Open: Rafael Nadal eliminated by Frances Tiafoe in the thriller of the round of 16 in New York