French people

American Frances Tiafoe upsets Rafael Nadal to advance to US Open quarter-finals

NEW YORK – Frances Tiafoe ended Rafael Nadal’s 22-game Grand Slam winning streak by beating the 22-time major champion 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the fourth round of the US Open on Monday.

Tiafoe buried her head in her hands and cried on the pitch after shaking hands with Nadal. He sat on the bench and buried his head in a towel as Nadal walked away and waved to the crowd.

Tiafoe, 24, is the youngest American to reach the quarter-finals at the US Open since Andy Roddick in 2006. It’s the second major quarter-final of his career.

“I don’t even know what to say right now. I’m beyond happy. I can’t believe it,” said Tiafoe, who next faces No.9 seed Andrey Rublev. “He’s one of the greatest of all time. . I played amazing tennis today, but I don’t even know what happened.”

Here’s what happened: Tiafoe served better than No. 2 seed Nadal. More surprisingly, he came back better too. And he kept his cool, stayed in the moment, and never let the stakes or the opponent get to him.

Nadal had won his previous two matches, as well as all sets played. He was 31-2 in majors against the Americans in Monday’s game and had won 27 straight since losing to James Blake in 2005.

“Bravo for him,” Nadal said. “He was better than me.”

This upset came a day after one of Tiafoe’s cronies, Nick Kyrgios, knocked out No. 1 seed and defending champion Daniil Medvedev.

Nadal won the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June. Then he reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in July before withdrawing from that tournament due to a torn abdominal muscle; it doesn’t go on the books as a loss, as he retired before the game.

The 36-year-old Spaniard has only competed once in the 1.5 months between leaving the All England Club and arriving in New York while recovering from the injury. His game, especially his serve, failed to live up to his usual standards at the US Open, which he won four times.

Nadal tweaked his serve motion, throwing the ball lower than he normally does so as not to put so much pressure on his midsection while reaching with his racquet. There were plenty of signs Monday that his serve just wasn’t in top form: nine double faults, a first-serve percentage hovering around 50%, five breaks from Tiafoe.

The penultimate break came for a 4-3 advantage in the fourth set, when Nadal put a backhand in the net, and Tiafoe leapt back towards the sideline for the ensuing change, fist survey. Fifteen minutes later, Tiafoe broke again, and it was over.

When a final backhand from Nadal found the net, Tiafoe put her hands to her head. When he sat down in his sideline chair, he buried his face in a towel.

“When I first came on the scene, a lot of people had limits on what I would do. … I wasn’t ‘mentally ready for this’. I wasn’t ‘mature,'” Tiafoe said.

But these days, he added, “I’m able to do myself and do it my way and enjoy the game that I love.”

It represents the latest significant step forward for Tiafoe, whose only previous trip to a Grand Slam quarter-final came at the 2019 Australian Open – and ended in a loss to Nadal. Tiafoe thanked a long list of people who were in the stands, including his parents — they emigrated from Sierra Leone in West Africa and he worked as a maintenance man at a tennis center near the U.S. capital — his girlfriend and Washington Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal.

“To see them see what I did today means more than anything,” Tiafoe said. “Today is an amazing day and I will definitely soak up this one.”

Marin Cilic is now the last remaining grand champion in the men’s draw. If he loses to heavily favored Carlos Alcaraz on Monday night, it will only be the third time in the Open era (1968) that a men’s major has had a quarter-final without a former champion, according to ESPN Stats & Research. Information.

It’s also only the second Major since the start of 2005 without any members of the Big Three of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Nadal in the quarter-finals. The other was the 2020 French Open – Federer and Nadal didn’t play, and Djokovic was forfeited against Pablo Carreño Busta in the round of 16.

Earlier on Monday, Rublev reached his sixth Grand Slam quarter-final beating No.7 Cam Norrie 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Rublev is in his third quarter-final at Flushing Meadows; he’s 0-2 at this point in New York — and 0-5 in quarters in all majors.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.