Son of Sierra Leonean immigrants Frances Tiafoe has claimed the biggest win of his career, taking down Rafael Nadal 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the fourth round at the US Open on Tuesday morning [AEST].
Nadal boasted an undefeated 22-0 record at Grand Slams this year and was in prime position to take Daniil Medvedev’s spot atop the ATP rankings should he had advanced to the quarter-finals.
Instead, Tiafoe stunned the four-time champion to book a meeting with Andrey Rublev, who defeated Cam Norrie in straight sets earlier in the day.
“I don’t know what to say right now,” Tiafoe said post-match.
“I’m beyond happy, I’m almost in tears, I can’t believe it. He’s got to be one of the greatest of all time. I played unbelievable tennis today but … I don’t know what happened.”
Australian tennis great Todd Woodbridge described it as the “biggest win” of Tiafoe’s career, with Jelena Dokic praising the American for an “incredible” performance.
“He can’t believe it,” Woodbridge said.
“What a moment. Listen to the crowd go absolutely crazy. With the departure of Rafa Nadal, this tournament opens up incredibly. Opportunities galore for the rest of the field now.”
“He played an incredible match,” Dokic added.
“49 winners and only 28 unforced errors. He was dominant from the beginning and even when he got a little bit tight, he was down a break in the fourth, he brought his best. A huge win and huge upset. The draw really opening up now.”
Tiafoe, who has made the last 16 for the third successive year, won 12 of 16 first-serve points while hitting 14 winners and nine unforced errors on his way to taking the opening set 6-4.
It was hardly unfamiliar territory for Nadal though, being the third time in four matches at the US Open that he had dropped the opening set.
There was an early injury concern for Nadal though, who went off the court and took an eight-minute injury timeout between the first set ending and second starting to get taping done on his wrist.
The injury did not seem to be holding Nadal back though as the Spaniard responded to take the second set 6-4, breaking Tiafoe for the first time.
The American though refused to go away and scored a crucial break in the third, using his backhand well to go up 4-3 before taking the set 6-4.
Tiafoe won 15 of 26 first-serve points in the third set while hitting 13 winners to Nadal’s seven and firing five aces to the Spaniard’s two.
Nadal, who boasts a 22-0 record in Grand Slams this year, broke Tiafoe early to gain the advantage in the third as frustrations threatened to boil over for the American.
Tiafoe was at one point given an audible obscenity warning for complaining about the roof closing while he was serving.
But he regained his composure and then broke right back before saving two break points to level it at 3-3 in the fourth set.
Nadal was in a strong position to jump to top spot in the ATP rankings after Medvedev’s defeat to Nick Kyrgios on Monday.
Although his loss to Tiafoe now opens the door for either Carlos Alcaraz or Casper Ruud to jump him in the rankings, depending how far they go at this year’s US Open.