US Open: Tiafoe breaks new ground at Flushing Meadows by stunning Nadal

·3-min read

Frances Tiafoe produced a stunning performance to knock Rafael Nadal out of the US Open and reach the quarter-finals of his home grand slam for the first time.

Tiafoe was playing in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the third successive year, but his prospects of going beyond that point appeared slim against the 22-time grand slam champion.

Nadal had won his two previous encounters with Tiafoe but found the 24-year-old up to the challenge this time around, his firepower proving too much for his illustrious opponent.

So often Nadal has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and there were moments during his epic that he seemed primed to do so again. Yet winning the second set and breaking at the start of the fourth both proved false dawns for Nadal, as Tiafoe prevailed 6-4 4-6 6-4 6-3 to blow a men's draw that has already lost 2021 champion Daniil Medvedev wide open.

It became clear early on that the pace of Tiafoe's ball-striking and the variety in his game would cause Nadal problems and he got the break his play deserved when the Spaniard sent a pair of forehands long in the seventh game.

Tiafoe rarely looked daunted by the occasion and though he let a pair of set points go begging after going 40-0 up at 5-4, he snatched the third with a volley to ensure Nadal would have to mount a comeback.

A classic Nadal turnaround appeared very much on the cards when Tiafoe's composure deserted him trailing 5-4 on serve in the second, a double fault from the American allowing Nadal to level the match.

But any thought of Nadal, curiously unable to make an impression on Tiafoe's second serve, dominating from there was soon extinguished, Tiafoe breaking for a 4-3 lead in the third with a searing backhand down the line.

Tiafoe consolidated with an intelligent serve and volley play on his second serve and, after a Nadal hold, made no mistake in winning the third set on his racquet with an ace.

Controversy soon followed as Nadal broke a furious Tiafoe with a vicious forehand in a game played as the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof was closing.

Tiafoe received a code violation for "audible obscenity" after venting his frustration at that decision by the tournament officials, but he harnessed his anger in the right way. Nadal sent down a pair of double faults in an uncharacteristically sloppy service game and Tiafoe capitalised with a cross-court backhand that proved too hot for the four-time champion to handle.

A backhand error from Nadal gave Tiafoe another break for a 4-3, and he subsequently raced to the finish line, getting 40-0 on Nadal's serve and then completing the fairytale with on his second match point as Nadal sent another backhand into the net.

Data Slam: Tiafoe hands Nadal first grand slam loss of 2022

After winning both the Australian Open and the French Open, and withdrawing from Wimbledon due to injury, this is Nadal's first loss at a grand slam this year.

Tiafoe also joins James Blake and Andy Roddick as the only Americans to ever defeat Nadal at a grand slam, and it snaps Nadal's streak of 16 consecutive grand slam quarter-final appearances.

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Tiafoe – 18/4

Nadal – 9/9

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Tiafoe – 48/28

Nadal – 33/26

BREAK POINTS WON

Tiafoe – 5/8

Nadal – 2/6