After 22 consecutive wins at Majors in 2022, Rafael Nadal suffered the first loss in the US Open night session at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Rafa fell to Frances Tiafoe 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in two hours and 34 minutes, ending his journey in the fourth round and missing a chance to fight for the 23rd Major trophy.
Nadal needed a medical timeout after the opening set, and he could not force a decider despite giving his everything in the fourth set. Frances played aggressive tennis and remained composed in the decisive moments to seal the deal in four sets and send Rafa packing.
The American saved four out of six break points, and the Spaniard could not follow that. Dealing with an abdominal injury, Rafa could not serve at his usual pace throughout the tournament, struggling against France's 18 aces.
Tiafoe broke Nadal five times to control the result and advance into the first quarter-final in front of the home fans. Frances fired 49 winners and 28 unforced errors, keeping the rallies on his racquet and setting the quarter-final clash against Andrey Rublev.
Despite serving at 44%, Tiafoe faced no break points in the opening set and kept the pressure on the other side. He broke Rafa in game seven and held at 30 with a volley winner at 5-4 to grab the opener in 54 minutes. The Spaniard received a medical timeout and raised his level in the second set, dropping only five points in five service games.
Tiafoe served at 44% again and could not avoid problems behind the initial shot. After eight commanding holds on both sides, Rafa held after deuce for 5-4 and delivered his first break in the next one after Frances' double fault to wrap up the set and level the overall score.
Rafael Nadal did not play well against Frances Tiafoe at the US Open.
The returners claimed only 13 points in the third set, and Tiafoe did enough to make the crucial difference. The American served well in five games and stole the Spaniard's serve at 3-3 with a backhand down the line winner.
Frances clinched the set on his serve in game ten with an ace, moving two sets to one in front and gaining a boost. Nadal made the one last push in the fourth set's fourth game to open a 3-1 lead. Tiafoe broke back in the next one, survived break points at 2-3 and delivered another break in game seven to gain a 4-3 advantage.
Rafa served to stay in the match at 3-5 and had nothing more left in the tank. He experienced the third straight break and propelled Frances into the last eight. The American rattled off five consecutive games to seal the deal in style and remain on the title course.
"I played badly, and Frances played well. I had to play better to reach the US Open quarter-final; it's simple. I had my chances after breaking him in the fourth set, which could have given me confidence and changed the momentum.
Still, unlike Frances, I could not perform today. He was a better player, and I congratulate him. Now it's time to go home and prepare mentally for my upcoming challenges. I will return when I feel ready," Rafael Nadal said.