Tiafoe stuns Nadal in US Open round of 16

New York, Sep 5 (EFE).- American Frances Tiafoe unleashed his full arsenal of weapons in an impressive 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 US Open round-of-16 upset Monday afternoon of Spanish great Rafael Nadal, who stumbled to his only loss at a Grand Slam event this season.

Less than 24 hours after big-serving Nick Kyrgios bounced Russian world No. 1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev out of the tournament on Sunday night, the 24-year-old Tiafoe created further chaos in the men’s draw by scoring the biggest victory of his young career.

The Maryland-born son of immigrants from Sierra Leone never looked intimidated at any juncture of the match on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Starting strong, he registered the first service break of the match in the seventh game and then finished off the first set a few games later with a volley winner.

Nadal did not have a single break-point opportunity until late in the second set, but he earned two chances with Tiafoe serving at 4-5 when the American misjudged a ball that ended up barely clipping the line and then took the set on a double fault.

In a match filled with numerous easy service holds over the first three sets, each player had to capitalize on his break-point opportunities and Tiafoe was superior in that category on the day.

The Spaniard raced through his first three service games of the third set, but he got in trouble when serving at 3-3, 30-40, and then went down a break when the world No. 26 rifled a backhand winner down-the-line.

Feeling the energy from the New York crowd, the American then ended that set in style two service games later with a pair of aces and an outstanding down-the-line forehand winner to edge closer to victory.

The fourth set saw the trend of mostly routine service holds abruptly reversed, with Nadal striking first to take a 3-1 lead but then immediately getting broken in the following game.

But to the surprise of the crowd and the entire tennis world, Nadal would have no answer the rest of the way, dropping serve a second time that set in the seventh game to fall behind 4-3 and once again in the final game to exit the US Open at the round of 16 stage for the first time since 2016.

“I’m beyond happy, almost in tears, I can’t believe it,” Tiafoe, who struck 18 aces and 49 winners and committed only 28 unforced errors, said in a post-match on-court interview. “I played unbelievable tennis today. I really don’t know what happened.”

Nadal, who hurt his cause with nine double faults and won a surprisingly low 32 percent of his return points, rued afterward that he allowed Tiafoe to control too many points and said that at age 36 he cannot win with pure defense.

“Tennis is a sport of position a lot of times. If not, you need to be very, very quick and very young. I am not in that moment anymore.”

Next up for Tiafoe will be a match-up against Russian world No. 11 Andrey Rublev, who cruised past British world No. 9 Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Those two players met in the US Open third round last year, with the American prevailing in five sets.

In women’s round-of-16 action on Monday afternoon, Polish world No. 1 Iga Swiatek got a big scare from German world No. 108 Jule Niemeyer.

But she took control of the match late in the second set and never looked back for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory.

She will next take on American world No. 8 Jessica Pegula, who cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 victory over 21st-ranked Czech Petra Kvitova.

In one other women’s round-of-16 match Monday afternoon, 22nd-ranked Czech Karolina Pliskova, the 2016 runner-up, outlasted three-time US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2. EFE


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