The 22-time Major winner Rafael Nadal chased his fifth US Open crown. The Spaniard passed the opening three rounds before Frances Tiafoe toppled him 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in three hours and 34 minutes. Nadal played only one match between Wimbledon and the US Open, struggling with an abdominal injury and failing to serve at his best in New York.
Mats Wilander said that Rafa was a bit slow against Frances and that he could not find the rhythm and read the rival's strokes more efficiently. Tiafoe was the more aggressive player in front of the home fans, holding his nerves and prevailing in the decisive moments.
The American had almost 50 winners and tamed his strokes nicely to control the pace. Tiafoe got broken two times and produced five return games from eight opportunities that carried him home. The home player served well in the opening set despite struggling to find the first serve.
Nadal experienced a break at 3-3, and Tiafoe clinched the set with a volley winner in game ten for 6-4. The Spaniard needed a medical timeout ahead of the second set, and it helped him. Rafa lost only five points in five service games and grabbed a break in game ten after Frances' double fault to take the set 6-4 and level the overall score.
The American started all over in the third set, serving well and pressuring the better-ranked opponent.
Mats Wilander spoke about Rafael Nadal's US Open loss.
Tiafoe broke Nadal with a backhand down the line winner in the seventh game and wrapped up the set with an ace at 5-4 to move closer to the finish line.
Rafa gave his best to prolong the match and his chances, delivering his second and last break of serve with a forehand winner in the fourth set's fourth game. Tiafoe stayed calm and broke back in the next one. The American saved a couple of break chances in game six and broke again in the next one after the Spaniard's backhand mistake.
Tiafoe secured the eighth game with his 18th ace and delivered the third consecutive return game at 5-3 to celebrate his most notable victory in a career. "It looked like Rafa was a bit slow, or he found it difficult to read Frances' game.
Fognini and Tiafoe hit with an extremely short and quick back swing. We must remember that Rafa has not played enough tennis lately," Mats Wilander said.