Friend or Foe? Frances rolls Rafa

AMERICAN Frances Tiafoe has taken down world number two, Rafael Nadal to ensure a new Grand Slam champion will be crowned at the US Open. The American hard court talent was at his best in taking down an out-of-sorts Nadal, winning in four sets, 6-4 4-6 6-4 6-3 to book his spot in the quarter finals at Flushing Meadows. The 22nd seed needed three hours and 34 minutes to claim the victory, downing the second seeded Spaniard in a classic at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

In front of home fans, Tiafoe shared the limelight with an equally-loved Nadal, producing 18 aces and only four double faults, as his serve proved a menage for the usually composed Nadal. Clearly hampered, the Spaniard made nine double faults to match his nine aces, and was not able to have the same impact off his return, only breaking twice from six chances, as Tiafoe broke five times from eight opportunities.

“I’m beyond happy, almost in tears, I can’t believe it,” Tiafoe said post-match. “I played unbelievable tennis today. I really don’t know what happened.”

In their previous two encounters, Tiafoe had not even broken through for a set, but smashed 49 winners and only 28 double faults to control the game off his serve. He only served at a 50 per cent success rate, but won 76 and 60 per cent of his first and second serves in the contest. The win was the biggest of his career considering the stage, taking down the four-time US Open champion and ensuring Nadal’s hope of reaching 23 Grand Slams would need to wait for another year.

“At 4-3 [in the fourth set], when I went up 40/0, my legs were like cement,” Tiafoe said. “I just needed to get out of the game and then pray to god that I don’t have to serve for it. I was lucky enough to get out of that game. I came out not giving Rafa all the respect. I came out to win a tennis match if front of you guys.”

Now Tiafoe will lock horns with ninth seed Andrey Rublev, who defeated seventh seed Brit, Cameron Norrie over on Louis Armstrong Stadium. Rublev served 11 aces and hit 30 winners for 17 unforced errors, being a bit too consistent for Norrie with four breaks to one in order to reach the last eight of the US Open. Tiafoe said he was feeling good after the win over Nadal and feeling ready to go as far as possible.

“When I first came on the scene I felt like a lot of people had a lot of expectations on me on how I would do,” Tiafoe said. “I wasn’t ready for it mentally. I wasn’t mature enough for it. These past couple of years, when the tension hasn’t been on me I have been able to develop. I have a great team behind me. I am just putting my head down and I am happy with where I am in life in general. I am able to do me and do it my way and enjoy the game I love.”

In the other two singles matches, both went to five sets on the respective courts, with 11th seed Italian Jannik Sinner finishing early, courtesy of an all-out slog against Belarusian Ilya Ivashka. In three hours and 48 minutes, Sinner won 6-1 5-7 6-2 4-6 6-3, to book his place in the quarter finals. His next opponent remarkably needed an extra six minutes to complete his five-set match, as Carlos Alcaraz made his way into the quarter finals, defeating Marin Cilic, 6-4 3-6 6-4 4-6 6-3 in three hours and 54 minutes. The match went until just before 2:30am local time, with Alcaraz now flying the flag for Spain in the last eight, and is the best chance of taking the world number one spot.


[22] Frances Tiafoe (USA) defeated [2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) 6-4 4-6 6-4 6-3
[3] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) defeated [15] Marin Cilic (CRO) 6-4 3-6 6-4 4-6 6-3
[9] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated [7] Cameron Norrie (GBR) 6-4 6-4 6-4
[11] Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated Ilya Ivashka (BLR) 6-1 5-7 6-2 4-6 6-3

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments