Rafael Nadal’s dream run at majors this year came to an abrupt halt as he succumbed to a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 defeat to Francis Tiafoe in the US Open. With this defeat, Nadal’s unbeaten streak of 22-0 in majors also came to end.
Tiafoe had never taken off a set against Nadal, but in front of a partisan home crowd at Arthur Ashe Arena, he started the game strongly and gained an early lead. Nadal, however, leveled the game in the second set, and ride on the momentum to go 3-1 up in the third set.
At this point, the match seemed to be unfolding on expected lines, something we have been so accustomed to watching when next-gen players try to breach the unshakeable wall of the “Big 3”.
But Nadal, who has been far from his fluent best in the entire tournament, was unable to maintain the intensity for a long stretch. He suffered three straight breaks, and lost the set by 6-3.
Having seen the next generation of American players faltering against the “Big 3″, Tiafoe stood there in disbelief after Nadal’s backhand crashed into the net on a match point. I don’t even know what to say right now. I’m beyond happy, I’m almost in tears,” said the American, who will now face Andrey Rublev in the quarter-final.
Tiafoe initially struggled for consistency in his first serve but found the rhythm when it mattered the most. His first serve started clocking at around 130 m.p.h, and this made things harder for Nadal, whose movement was already very restricted, as he rarely attempted to chase the ball, perhaps to preserve his energy.
The congratulatory messages poured in for Tiafoe for what was easily the biggest win of his career. He was unable to contain his excitement when he saw NBA legend Lebron James posting about his victory.
“I was losing it in the locker room,” said Tiafoe. “I was going crazy. “That’s my guy. So to see him post that, I was like, ‘Do I retweet it as soon as he sent it?’ I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to be cool and act like I didn’t see it and then retweet it three hours later.'”
Nadal, meanwhile, will now return to Spain to be with his wife, Mery, who is pregnant with their first child. He is supposed to feature in Laver Cup, which starts later this month.
Lead Image: Rafael Nadal/Twitter