US Open 2022: Frances Tiafoe STUNS Rafael Nadal, ends Spaniard’s 22-match win streak in Grand Slams, WATCH
Frances Tiafoe is the youngest American man to get this far at the US Open since Andy Roddick in 2006 after beating Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, but this was not a case of a one-sided crowd backing one of its own.
Frances Tiafoe’s vision was blurry from the tears. He was thrilled — overwhelmed, even — when the last point was over and it hit him that, yes, he had ended Rafael Nadal’s 22-match Grand Slam winning streak Monday and reached the US Open 2022 quarterfinals for the first time. “I felt like the world stopped,” Tiafoe said. “I couldn’t hear anything for a minute.”
Then Tiafoe found himself “losing it in the locker room” when he saw that NBA superstar LeBron James gave him a Twitter shoutout. “Bro,” Tiafoe said, “I was going crazy.”
What meant the most to Tiafoe about his 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 22-time major champion Nadal in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, though, was looking up in his Arthur Ashe Stadium guest box and knowing his parents, Constant and Alphina, were there.
“To see them experience me beat Rafa Nadal — they’ve seen me have big wins, but to beat those ‘Mount Rushmore’ guys? For them, I can’t imagine what was going through their heads,” said Tiafoe, a 24-year-old American seeded 22nd at the US Open 2022. “I mean, they’re going to remember today for the rest of their lives.”
His parents both emigrated to the United States from Sierra Leone in West Africa amid its civil war in the 1990s. They ended up in Maryland, where Constant helped construct a tennis training center for juniors, then became a maintenance man there; Alphina, Frances said, was “a nurse, working two jobs, working overtime through the nights.” Frances and his twin brother, Franklin, were born in 1998, and soon would be spending hour upon hour where Dad's job was, rackets in hand.
Maybe one day, went the dream, a college scholarship would come of it. “It wasn’t anything supposed to be like this,” Tiafoe said Monday evening, hours after by far his biggest victory.
He is the youngest American man to get this far at the US Open since Andy Roddick in 2006, but this was not a case of a one-sided crowd backing one of its own. Nadal is about as popular as it gets in tennis and heard plenty of support as the volume raised after the retractable roof was shut in the fourth set. “It's something to tell the kids, the grandkids: ‘Yeah, I beat Rafa,’” Tiafoe said with a big smile.
He served better than No. 2 seed Nadal. More surprisingly, he returned better, too. And he kept his cool, remained in the moment and never let the stakes or the opponent get to him. Nadal, a 36-year-old from Spain, had won both of their previous matches, and every set they played, too.
“Well, the difference is easy: I played a bad match and he played a good match,” Nadal said. “At the end that’s it.”
This surprise came a day after Tiafoe followed along on TV as his pal Nick Kyrgios “put on a show” and eliminated No. 1 seed and defending champion Daniil Medvedev. That makes this the first U.S. Open without either of the top two seeded men reaching the quarterfinals since 2000, when No. 1 Andre Agassi exited in the second round and No. 2 Gustavo Kuerten in the first.
That was before Nadal, Novak Djokovic, who has 21 Grand Slam titles, and Roger Federer, who has 20, began dominating men's tennis. Djokovic, 35, did not enter this U.S. Open because is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and was not allowed to enter the United States; Federer, 41, has undergone a series of operations on his right knee and last played at Wimbledon last year.
(With PTI inputs)