Rising American star Frances Tiafoe described world No. 2 Rafael Nadal as a "hell of a player" after their Australian Open quarter-final clash. No. 2 seed Nadal saw off 21-year-old Tiafoe 6-3 6-4 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena to make the semi-final at Melbourne Park.
Tiafoe never really stood a chance as the Spaniard broke the American early on in each set. "It was tough. It was tough definitely. I mean, he's a hell of a player, man. Yeah, I mean, his ball is kicking up like crazy.
(The) court was really slow. Yeah, it was just tough to really hit the room. I felt like I was hitting a lot of balls long early. Probably overplaying. I got in a decent rhythm there for a hot sec, but he's just tough and he's played on that court, so he's more comfortable than me," Tiafoe said post-match.
World No. 39 Tiafoe knew exactly what to expect from Nadal but even that didn't help him to beat the 17-time Grand Slam champion. "I mean, I don't know if he surprised me. I knew what he was going to bring to the table.
I knew he was going to bring crazy intensity, I knew the ball was going to be jumping. I knew if he got hold of a forehand, it was going to be barbecued chicken. But point in, point out, I've never seen someone so locked in," Tiafoe said, when asked what either surprised or impressed him about Nadal.
"I think that's what I take from him. I think that's what I've been able to put in my game a little bit, playing a little more less loose points. Still not as tight as him. That's what you saw in certain situations today."
Tiafoe stunned 2018 Wimbledon runner-up Kevin Anderson and 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov on his way to reaching his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final. "I don't even know what I would say to you, man.
It's crazy. I didn't think any of this was going to happen. If you would have asked me during the off-season, You're going to play Rafa in the quarterfinals on Rod Laver with Rod Laver watching, I probably would have laughed.
It's unbelievable. I'm just happy this didn't happen on my birthday. But to be in a quarterfinal at a slam, knowing I can do this, that's the biggest thing," Tiafoe said, when asked what phrase would he use to describe his run at Melbourne Park.