Nadal’s illusions crumble at the US Open
Nadal had a clear path ahead of him, as Novak Djokovic was banned from entering the United States because he was not vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. With world No. 2 Alexander Zverev recovering from a right ankle injury and the elimination of world No. 1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev on Sunday, the Mallorcan was the favorite to win a fifth major at Flushing Meadows and take his record of Grand Slam titles to 23.
The champion Nadal had to face a world No 26 Tiafoe who played the match of his life while he regretted not being able to play his best tennis.
“He played well; he did a lot of things very well. I had my chances, and if I want to be in the quarters, I have to play better than that,” said the 36-year-old Spaniard.
“You have to be ready to take the chances that come your way. And I wasn’t able to do that. He knew how to do it, he played with the right determination,” he added.
Nadal converted just two of his six break points, while Tiafoe won five of eight.
Nadal’s defeat leaves the race for the world’s number one spot wide open, which Medvedev will automatically relinquish on 12 September. The Spaniard remains in contention, but the chances of his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz and Norway’s Casper Ruud, still in view in New York, have suddenly soared.
Tiafoe, who had never made it past the round of 16 at the US Open (he reached the quarters in Australia in 2019), is moving on.
“I don’t know what to say; I can’t believe it… I played incredible tennis, I don’t know what happened,” he said on a high before leaving the Arthur-Ashe court, where the feat and the ovation of the public had misted his eyes.
He will now face No. 11 Andrey Rublev of Russia for a place in the semis.
After having to battle through five sets in the previous round to eliminate Canadian Denis Shapovalov in a super tie-break in more than four hours of battle, the Russian defeated British Cameron Norrie (9th) 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
“We still played two and a half hours; that’s a long time,” he said, half-joking.
The 24-year-old will make his sixth attempt to reach the last four of a Grand Slam tournament, his third in New York.
This 8th day of the US Open will see the Spanish phenomenon, Carlos Alcaraz (4th), attempt to qualify for the quarters (as he did last year for his first participation), by facing the Croatian Marin Cilic (17th and winner in 2014).
In the women’s draw, No. 8 Jessica Pegula of the United States quickly eliminated No. 21 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-2 and will play her first quarter-final at Flushing Meadows.
She will face world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who gave herself a scare before finally beating 108th-ranked Jule Niemeier of Germany 2-6, 6-4, 6-0 in an erratic match featured 76 unforced errors and 12 breaks.
“It’s satisfying,” commented Swiatek, explaining, “This will be my first quarter-final in New York, so I’m proud.
The 21-year-old Pole, a two-time French Open winner (2020, 2022) and the first representative of her country to reach this stage at the US Open, was eliminated in the semi-finals of this year’s Australian Open.
She then lost in the second round in Dubai. Still, from the next tournament in Doha, she went 37 matches without defeat, winning six titles in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Suttgart, Rome and the French Open, until she fell in the third round at Wimbledon.