Frances Tiafoe of America stunned four-time champion Rafael Nadal on Monday at the U.S. Open to reach his second Grand Slam quarterfinals.
Playing in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the 24-year-old played fearlessly throughout the three-hour, 31-minute thriller to clinch the match against Nadal 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Tiafoe slammed the ball off both wings and rallied from a breakdown in the fourth set to become the first American man to reach the last eight in New York since John Isner in 2018. The American struck 49 winners to turn the tables in style.
The 22nd seed will next play Andrey Rublev after the ninth seed downed Briton Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
After claiming the first set and losing the second, Tiafoe made a stunning comeback to clinch the third. In a tight fourth set, the Spaniard hammered first to move 3-1 ahead. Tiafoe stuck to his game plan, though, and worked his way back into the set. He swung freely and held his nerve, cruising off five straight games to seal a historic win.
“I’m beyond happy, almost in tears, I can’t believe it. I played unbelievable tennis today. I really don’t know what happened,” Tiafoe said in his on-court interview.
“At 4-3 [in the fourth set], when I went up 40/0, my legs were like cement. I just needed to get out of the game and then pray to God that I don’t have to serve for it. I was lucky enough to get out of that game. I came out not giving Rafael all the respect. I came out to win a tennis match in front of you guys,” Tiafoe said.
“When I first came on the scene, I felt like a lot of people had a lot of expectations of me on how I would do. I wasn’t ready for it mentally. I wasn’t mature enough for it. These past couple of years, when the tension hasn’t been on me, I have been able to develop. I have a great team behind me. I am just putting my head down and I am happy with where I am in life in general. I am able to do me and do it my way and enjoy the game I love,” the American said.