36-year-old Nadal missed the US Open last year due to injuries and even feared for his career. But look: he won the Australian Open and Roland-Garros, good for his 21st and 22nd Grand Slam title.
He was also in good shape in Wimbledon, but had to miss out on his semifinal against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal muscle injury.
So 24-year-old Tiafoe (ATP-26) was the first to beat Nadal (ATP-3 and 2nd seed in NY) at one of the 4 grand slam tournaments this calendar year.
“I don’t know what to say,” he said in disbelief. “I’m more than happy. I can’t believe it. Nadal is one of the greatest of all time. I played incredibly good tennis today, but I don’t really know what happened. The world stopped spinning.”
This is what happened: Tiafoe punched better than Nadal. And more surprisingly, it also returned better. On top of that, he remained calm and focused and was never intimidated by circumstances or his opponent. Nadal is popular in New York, some of the audience was on his side. The atmosphere at Arthur Ashe was ecstatic.
Tiafoe reaches his second quarterfinal in a grand slam tournament after Melbourne 2019. He is the youngest American man to make it this far at the US Open since Andy Roddick in 2004. The last 8 awaits Russian Andrej Roeblev (ATP-11).
(read on below the photo)
However, the figures in advance spoke in favor of Nadal. They won their previous 2 matches and every set therein. “The difference? Easy answer: I played a bad game and he played a good one. That’s the bottom line.”
“I couldn’t maintain a high level and was too slow in my movements. He could take the ball too early too often, so I couldn’t push him back on the field. Today Tiafoe was stronger.”
The first 3 sets were each decided with 1 break, in set 4 Nadal came in 1-3, but 3 times in a row he gave up his service afterwards: 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Nadal won the US Open in 2019, but was missing from the US tournament in 2020 (corona) and 2021 (injury).
Tiafoe’s stunt comes a day after his friend Nick Kyrgios knocked out 1st seed and title holder Daniil Medvedev. For the first time since 2000, the top 2 in New York do not reach the quarterfinals.
That had begun to dominate men’s tennis for Nadal (22 grand slam titles), Djokovic (21) and Federer (20). Djokovic does not participate in this, because he was not allowed to enter the US without a corona vaccine.