New York — Francis TiafoeIt was a blurry vision of tears. He was thrilled—overwhelmed, even—when the last point ended and hit him, yeah, it’s over Rafael NadalHe won 22 consecutive Grand Slam matches on Monday and reached the US Open quarter-finals for the first time.
“It felt like the world had stopped,” said Tiafoe. I couldn’t hear anything for a minute.
Then Tiafoe, 24, found himself “losing him in the locker room” when he saw the NBA star LeBron James Gave him a shout out on Twitter.
“Brother,” said Tiafoe, “I was going crazy.”
What Tiafoe meant the most was his 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 2 seed Nadal in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, though, as he was looking at his guest box at Arthur Ashe Court and finding out That his parents, Constant and Alvina, were there.
“To see them try me beat Rafael Nadal – they saw me take big wins, but to beat the Mount Rushmore guys?” said Tiafoe, ranked 22nd American. “For them, I can’t imagine what was going through their heads. I mean, they would remember the day for the rest of their lives.”
His parents immigrated to the United States from Sierra Leone in West Africa amid the civil war in the 1990s. They ended up in Maryland, where Constant helped build a junior tennis training center and then became a maintenance man there. Tiafoe said Alvina was “a nurse, working two jobs, working overtime during the night.” Born in 1998, Tiafoe and his twin brother Franklin quickly spent hour after hour with dad’s job, rackets on hand.
Perhaps one day, the dream is gone, a college scholarship will come from it.
“It wasn’t supposed to be anything like this,” Frances Tiafoe said Monday night, hours after his biggest win.
He is the youngest American man to reach this far at the US Open since then Andy Roddick In 2006, but this was not a case of a one-sided rally supporting one. As popular as in tennis, Nadal heard a lot of support as the volume was raised after the retractable roof closed in the fourth set.
Nadal was 31-2 in a major tournament against the Americans who entered Monday’s match and won 27 in a row since losing to James Blake in 2005.
“That’s something you say to the children, the grandchildren: Yes, you have defeated Rafa,” said Tiafoe, with a big smile.
Served better than Nadal. Even more surprisingly, it came back even better. He kept his cool, stayed in the moment and didn’t let the bets or the opponent get to him. Nadal, 36, of Spain, has won both of their previous games – and in every set they played, too.
“Well, the difference is easy: I played a bad game and he played a good game,” said Nadal, who has won 22 Grand Slam titles. “In the end, that’s it.”
This surprise came a day after he followed Tiafoe on TV as his friend Nick Kyrgios Make a Show and max out the top seed and defending champion Daniel Medvedev. This makes this the first US Open without any of the top ranked players making it to the quarter-finals since 2000, when they finished first. Andre Agassi He came out in the second round and number 2 Gustavo Kuerten at first.
That was before Nadal, Novak Djokovic (who won 21 Grand Slam titles) and Roger Federer (who has 20) began to dominate men’s tennis. Djokovic, 35, did not participate in this US Open because he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 and was not allowed to enter the United States; Federer, 41, underwent a series of operations on his right knee and last played at Wimbledon in 2021.
This year’s US Open is the second major tournament since the start of 2005 without Federer, Djokovic and Nadal in the quarter-finals. The other was the 2020 US Open, when Federer and Nadal did not play and Djokovic stumbled in front of it Pablo Carreno Posta In the round of 16.
Now comes the inevitable questions of whether their era of excellence is coming to an end.
“It shows that the years are passing,” Nadal said. It is the circle of life.
No. 11 Yannick Sener He recovered from falling two games behind in the fifth set to be defeated Ilya Ivashka 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 and snatched a place in all four of this year’s Grand Slam quarter-finals.
Sener, who turned 21 in August, became the youngest player to reach the quarter-finals of all four Grand Slam tournaments in a single season since Djokovic was 20 in 2007.
Sener lost 3-1 in the fifth set but rushed to win five straight games to seal off the unseeded Ivashka. Sinner won 12 match break points and dug deep for fifth, explaining why the up-and-coming Italian player is a potential star. wrong joins Matteo Berrettini He represented the Italian men in the quarter-finals of the US Open.
Next Mistaken Plays #3 Carlos Alcarazwho was the last to qualify for the quarter-finals on one of the longest nights ever at the Open Championship – including a fourth set that lasted about an hour – with 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 Beat the 2014 US Open Champion Marin Cilic At Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Alcaraz, who could finish the Open World Championships number one in the world, fell to his knees when he won the grueling 3h54m finish at 2:23am – losing the record by 3 minutes to the latest. Finish in unlocking history. At 19, he would be the youngest No. 1 player on the ATP Tour since 2001, and was already the youngest man to reach the fourth round in consecutive US Openings since Pete Sampras in 1989 and 1990.
“Frankly, I have no idea,” Alcaraz said in court when asked how he managed to achieve the victory. “It was very difficult at the start of the fifth set [being a] Separation.
“Marin was playing incredibly well. But I believed in myself the whole time. Of course the support today at Arthur Ashe was crazy. Without you guys, it wouldn’t be possible to win this game tonight, so thank you so much for the support.”
“I would say 100% of the energy that I put into the fifth set was thanks to you. It was unbelievable.”
Cilic was the last major champion remaining in the men’s lottery, which means this is only the third time in the Open Era that the men’s major championship has had a quarter-final without a previous champion, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Nadal won the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June. He then reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in July before withdrawing from that tournament due to an abdominal muscle.
Nadal competed only once in the months and a half between leaving the All England Club and arriving in New York, winning four titles.
He modified his serve move, throwing the ball lower than he normally does so as not to put pressure on his midsection. There were plenty of signs on Monday that his serve wasn’t at his best: nine double faults, first serve percentage hovering around 50%, five breaks by Tiafoe.
Earlier in the tournament, Nadal lost the first set of his first-round match. He did the same in the second round, when he accidentally cut the bridge of his nose and made himself dizzy when the rim of his racket tire bounced off the field and caught him in the face.
However, on Monday Nadal looked on the verge of turning things around when he broke early in the fourth set and advanced 3-1.
“Stay in him. Stay with him,” said Tiafoe to himself.
This ties into two main areas that Tiafoe owes to helping make him a stronger player lately: an improved match mentality and commitment to fitness.
“Rafa is everywhere,” said Tiafoe. “I’ve been known to have some dips in my game sometimes, it’s like you’re watching it [and thinking], ‘What is it?!’ That was the thing for me, the intensity of matches.”
No worries now; He grabbed the last five games. The next break of the last came for a 4-3 advantage in the fourth set, when Nadal curled a backhand into the net, slashed Tiafoe back toward the touchline for the next turn, and raised his fist.
Fifteen minutes later, Tiafoe broke again, and it was over. This marks the latest significant step forward for Tiafoe, whose only previous trip to the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam came at the 2019 Australian Open – and ended in a loss to Nadal.
When Nadal’s final backhand found the net, Tiafoe threw his racket and put his hands on his head. He looked toward the box of his guests in the stands – Mom, Dad, Brother, Girlfriend, Washington Wizards All Star Bradley Bellet al. Then he sat in his side chair and buried his face in a towel.
“It was wild,” said Tiafoe. “My heart is going a thousand miles an hour. I was so excited. I was like, ‘Let me sit.’ Yeah, I’ve never felt anything like this in my life, honestly.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.