Thiafoe ends Nadal’s 22-win streak in fourth round of US Open


NEW YORK — Francis Tiafoe beat the 22-time Grand Slam champion 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the fourth round of the U.S. Open on Monday to end Rafael · Nadal’s 22-game winning streak in Grand Slam tournaments.

Tiafoe, a 24-year-old from Maryland, was the No. 22 seed in Flushing Meadows and reached his second career Grand Slam quarterfinal.

He’s the youngest American to achieve that at the U.S. Open since Andy Roddick in 2006, but that’s not the case for someone who unilaterally supports himself. Nadal was as popular in tennis as he was in tennis, and he had plenty of support as the volume increased at the Arthur Ashe Stadium after the retractable roof closed in the fourth set.

“I don’t even know what to say now. I’m so happy. I can’t believe it,” said Tiafoe, who next faces ninth seed Andrei Rublev. “He’s one of the greatest players of all time. I played unbelievable tennis today, but I don’t even know what happened.”

Here’s the thing: Thiafo is doing better than second-seeded Nadal. Even more surprising, his return was also better. He stayed calm, stayed in the moment and never let bets or opponents approach him. The 36-year-old from Spain has won both of their previous matches and they have won every set.

“Well, the difference is simple: I don’t play well, he plays well,” Nadal said. “That’s it in the end.”

The surprise came a day after one of Tiafoe’s close friends, Nick Kyrgios, knocked out No. 1 seed and defending champion Daniel Medvedev. That made it the first U.S. Open without the top two seeds to reach the quarterfinals since 2000, when No. 1 Andre Agassi dropped out in the second round and No. 2 No. Gustavo Kurten dropped out in the first round.

That was before Nadal, Novak Djokovic with 21 Grand Slam titles and Roger Federer with 20 Grand Slam titles started dominating men’s tennis. Djokovic, 35, did not participate in this US Open because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19 and was not allowed to enter the United States; Federer, 41, underwent a series of surgeries on his right knee, not since Wimbledon last year. participated in the competition.

Now comes the inevitable question of whether their era of excellence is coming to an end.

“It means the years go on,” Nadal said. “It’s the natural cycle of life.”

Tiafoe or Rublev will advance to the first major semi-final. Rublev, who led 0-5 in the Grand Slam quarterfinals, defeated No. 7 Kamnori 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 earlier on Monday.

Other men’s matches on Monday’s schedule: 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic against No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz and No. 11 Jannick Sinner against Ilya Ivashka.

First-ranked woman Iga Swiatek covered her head with a white towel during a lane change after falling a set and rest in the fourth round. She kept making mistakes and then rolled her eyes or stared in the direction of her guest box.

In the end, Swatek resumed her batting in a 2-6, 6-4, 6-0 win over Jule Nemeier at Flushing Meadows and entered her 2nd in Flushing Meadows. A quarterfinal.

“I’m proud,” Swatek said. “I haven’t lost hope.”

The 21-year-old from Poland will next face another player in the quarterfinals of the US Open for the first time. That was top-ranked U.S. women’s No. 8 seed Jessica Pegula, who advanced 6-3, 6-2 over two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova .

Monday’s other women’s fourth-round matches are two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka against two-time Grand Slam finalist Karolina Pliskova, and No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka against No. 19 Danielle Collins.

Nadal won the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June. He then reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in July before withdrawing from that match with a torn abdominal muscle. It wasn’t on the books because he quit the game before the game.

Nadal only played once in the 1 1/2 months between leaving the All England Club and arriving in New York while recovering from injury. He didn’t play up to his usual standards at the U.S. Open, where he’s won four times.

He adjusted his serve to throw the ball lower than usual to avoid putting too much pressure on his midsection when hitting the ball with the racket. There were plenty of signs on Monday that his serve wasn’t at its best: nine double faults, a first-serving percentage hovering around 50 percent, and Thiafoe breaking five times.

Nadal showed signs of trouble early in the game. He lost the first set in the first round. He did the same in the second round, also accidentally cutting the bridge of his nose and making himself dizzy when the edge of his racket frame bounced off the court and hit him in the face on a backhand follow-up. .

The penultimate break in Monday’s fourth round came in a 4-3 lead in the fourth set when Nadal backhanded into the net and Tiafoe jumped back to the touchline for the ensuing substitution, raising his fist . Fifteen minutes later, Tiafoe broke again and it was over.

When Nadal’s final backhand went into the net, Tiafoe put his hands on his head. He buried his face in the towel as he sat in the vice chair.

“When I first came to the scene, a lot of people had restrictions on what I could do. …I wasn’t ‘mentally ready’. I wasn’t ‘mature,'” Tiafoe said . But these days, he added, “I’m able to be myself, do it my way, and enjoy the game I love.”

It represents the latest major step forward for Tiafoe, whose only previous Grand Slam quarter-final was at the 2019 Australian Open – which ended in a loss to Nadal.

Tiafoe thanked a long list of people in the stands, including his parents — who immigrated from Sierra Leone in West Africa, his father working as a maintenance worker at a tennis facility near the U.S. capital — his girlfriend and a Washington Wizards All-Star Guard Bradley Beal.

“Let them see that what I’m doing today is more important than anything else,” Tiafoe said. “Today is an unbelievable day and I’m definitely immersed in it.”

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