American Frances Tiafoe stunned Rafael Nadal as he handed the 22-time Major champion his first Grand Slam loss 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 French Open to take the overall lead, but he was defeated by Tiafoe with a 6-4 4-6 6-4 6 -3 victory overwhelmed.
No American has won a Grand Slam title since Andy Roddick at Flushing Meadows in 2003, by far the longest drought in tennis history.
Now Tiafoe, the 24-year-old son of Sierra Leoneans who grew up asleep in the office of a tennis center in Maryland where his father was the janitor, is in the middle of a wide-open tournament of defeats for first-time defending champion Daniil Medvedev and now Nadal .
The result leaves 2014 champion Marin Cilic, who was set to face Carlos Alcaraz in Monday’s night session, as the only former Slam winner in the draw.
Tiafoe said of his win: “I don’t even know what to say right now. I can not believe it. He’s one of the greatest of all time. I played really good tennis. Something special happened today.”
Nadal headed into the US Open just before games after suffering a abdominal tear that forced him to withdraw from Wimbledon ahead of the semifinals.
He lost sets to Rinky Hijikata and Fabio Fognini in the first two rounds but looked more like himself in a straight-set win over Richard Gasquet on Saturday.
Tiafoe started the competition without dropping a set, attempting to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in his third consecutive journey to the fourth round.
The American is a natural crowd pleaser with his flashy play and lively personality, and he took full advantage of his opponent’s rather sluggish start of the game.
There were a few boos when Nadal finally returned from an eight-and-a-half-minute off-court break in which he reportedly had his wrists taped at the end of the first set.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion was still not at his best, but he kept ahead on serve and then took his opportunity to level the match when Tiafoe made a double fault.
If the crowd expected Nadal to pull clear in the third game, however, Tiafoe didn’t follow the script, repeatedly breaking through the Spaniard’s legendary defenses with his power and racing to his seat after breaking 4-3.
He served the set with one of the best plays of the tournament, cracking two consecutive winners and then winning it with an ace.
Both men left the court for extended breaks before the fourth, in which Nadal executed a leaping fist at his team after fending off a break point in the opening game.
He went 3-1 up, with Tiafoe receiving a caution for dropping serve as the roof closed over Arthur Ashe, but the second seed still didn’t look firm and his opponent came on with a series of five games in a row to claim the biggest win of his career.
In the last eight, Tiafoe meets ninth-placed Andrey Rublev, who beat Cameron Norrie 6-4 6-4 6-4.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/tennis/rafael-nadal-daniil-medvedev-frances-tiafoe-australian-open-american-b2160468.html Rafael Nadal missed Frances Tiafoe’s first Grand Slam defeat of the season