American Frances Tiafoe played the match of his life to beat second seed Rafa Nadal 6-4 4-6 6-4 6-3 in the fourth round of the U.S. Open on Monday.
It was the first time this year that Nadal, who had been chasing a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam title, has been beaten in a major.
Tiafoe covered his face with his hands as he soaked up the cheers from a packed house at Arthur Ashe Stadium after breaking Nadal for a fifth time to claim arguably the biggest upset of the tournament.
“I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m beyond happy, I’m almost in tears,” Tiafoe, seeded 22, said in an on-court interview. “I can’t believe it. He is definitely one of the greatest of all time. I played unbelievable tennis today, but I really don’t know what happened.”
While Tiafoe did indeed play sublime tennis, he also benefited from an uncharacteristically poor serving and returning performance from Nadal. The Spaniard produced nine double faults and hit just 33 winners to Tiafoe’s 48.
With the win, Tiafoe snapped Nadal’s streak of 17 straight majors where he reached the quarter-finals or better. The Spaniard had triumphed at the Australian and French Opens this year before withdrawing with an abdominal injury before his semi-final at Wimbledon.
After the match, Nadal made no excuses for his performance amid suffocating humidity in New York.
“I can find excuses but for me it’s simple: when you don’t play at the level that you should… you can’t win,” he told reporters.
“My opponent was the better player”.
After the match he donned a hoodie that listed all of Serena Williams’ 23 Grand Slam victories on the back. The trailblazing Williams likely played her final match of her career at the tournament last week. (Reuters)