American Frances Tiafoe stunned Rafael Nadal by delivering to the 22-time world champion his first Grand Slam defeat of the season in the fourth round of the US Open.
Nadal was looking for his third slam title of the year after winning the Australian Open and the French Open to take the lead in the overall race, but was overwhelmed by Tiafoe with a 6-4 4-6 6- 4 6-3.
No American has won a Grand Slam title since Andy Roddick at Flushing Meadows in 2003, by far their longest drought in tennis history.
Now Tiafoe, the 24-year-old son of immigrants from Sierra Leone who slept in the office of a tennis center in Maryland where his father was the caretaker as a child, is right in the middle of a tournament that has been completely blown away by defeats for the game. first defending champion Daniil Medvedev and now Nadal.
The result leaves 2014 champion Marin Cilic, who was supposed to play Carlos Alcaraz in Monday’s night session, as the only former slam winner left in the draw.
Tiafoe said of his victory: “I don’t even know what to say right now. I can not believe. He is one of the greatest of all time. I played great tennis. Something special happened today ”.
Nadal went to the US Open short of matches after suffering an abdominal tear that forced him to retire from Wimbledon ahead of the semi-finals.
He lost sets to Rinky Hijikata and Fabio Fognini in the first two rounds, but looked more like usual in a two-set win over Richard Gasquet on Saturday.
Tiafoe started the contest having not lost a set and making an offer to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in his third straight away match in the fourth round.
The American is a natural crowd pleaser with his flashy game and vibrant personality, and made full use of his opponent’s rather slow start to the game.
There was a smattering of boos as Nadal finally returned from an eight-and-a-half-minute off-screen stoppage at the end of the first set, during which he allegedly had his wrists tied.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion was still not at his best, but he kept his nose in front of the serve and then took the opportunity to equalize the game when Tiafoe committed a double foul.
If audiences were expecting Nadal to walk away in the third, though, Tiafoe didn’t follow suit, breaking through the Spaniard’s legendary defensive powers over and over again with his might and rushing to his place after breaking 4-3.
He served the set with one of the best games of the tournament, munching on the winners one after the other and then winning it with an ace.
Both men left the pitch for long pauses before the fourth, which saw Nadal punch jump towards his team after he fended off a breaking point in the opening match.
He took the lead 3-1, with Tiafoe receiving a warning for cursing after losing his serve as the roof closed on Arthur Ashe, but the second seed still didn’t seem to settle and his opponent returned with a streak. five games in a row to take the biggest win of his career.
In the last eight Tiafoe will face the ninth seed Andrey Rublev, who beat Cameron Norrie 6-4 6-4 6-4.