Rafael Nadal practiced with the 16-year-old Frances Tiafoe at Roland Garros 2014. Two players shared the court twice in 2019, and Nadal won both matches in Melbourne and Madrid. Rafa and Frances are the opponents at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday, battling in the US Open fourth round and seeking a place in the quarter-final.
Three years ago, Nadal ousted Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in the Australian Open quarter-final in an hour and 47 minutes. The first-time Major quarter-finalist gave his best to stay in touch, serving at 75% and blasting 13 aces. Still, the American failed to make an impression with his second serve, which cost him the match.
Rafa landed 74% of the first serve in and drew the most from it, losing 17 points on serve and fending off both break points to keep the pressure on the other side. Rafa created eight break points and converted four to control the scoreboard.
Rafael Nadal will seek the third victory over Frances Tiafoe in New York.
Nadal grabbed a single break in the second set and shifted into a higher gear in the third to emerge at the top and advance into the 30th Major semi-final.
Three months later, Nadal and Tiafoe met on clay in Madrid. Rafa moved into his seventh straight Madrid Masters quarter-final following a 6-3, 6-4 triumph in an hour and 32 minutes. The home favorite dropped ten points behind the initial shot and saved the only break point to keep the pressure on the other side.
The young American lost 40% of the points in his games and got broken twice from four chances given to Rafa. Unlike in Barcelona and Monte Carlo, Nadal moved better and tamed his shots more efficiently, finishing on 17 winners and 16 unforced errors.
The more experienced player had the upper hand in the quickest, mid-range and most extended rallies to control the pace and sail towards the finish line. Tiafoe will try to create more return chances against Nadal in front of the home crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium, eager to remain the last American in the title chase.
Nadal has not been serving at full pace following an abdominal injury from Wimbledon, and Tiafoe will have his opportunities in the return games. Still, the Spaniard will use his vast experience and try to impose his strokes and dictate the pace from the baseline.