Harder is the fall for Rafael Nadal. For his return to New York since his title in 2019, the Spaniard was eliminated on Monday, September 5, in the round of 16 of the US Open by the American Frances Tiafoe.
In the absence of Novak Djokovic, banned from entering the territory of the United States – not vaccinated against Covid-19 –, of world number 2, Alexander Zverev, who is recovering from a right ankle injury, and after the elimination, on Sunday, of world number 1 and defending champion, Daniil Medvedev, the Mallorcan was favorite to clinch a fifth Major at Flushing Meadows and take his record of Grand Slam titles to 23.
But he fell on a Tiafoe (26e world) who played the match of his life, and who knew how to take it. “Tennis is about being in a good position. If not, you must be very, very fast and very young, said the 36-year-old Spaniard, smiling slightly. What I am no longer. My shots need to be better. Overall, my reading of the game and the quality of my shots were poor. »
“You have to be ready to seize the opportunities that present themselves. And I couldn’t. He knew how to do it, he played with the right determination., he added. Rafael Nadal only converted two of the six break points he got when Tiafoe won five out of eight.
Three-way race for world number one
Nadal’s defeat leaves wide open the race for the place of world number 1 that Medvedev will automatically give up on September 12: the Spaniard remains in the running, but the chances of his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz and the Norwegian Casper Ruud, still in the running New York, suddenly skyrocketed. Tiafoe, who had never passed the round of 16 at the US Open (he had reached the quarters in Australia in 2019), therefore continued on his way.
“I don’t know what to say, I don’t believe it… I played incredible tennis, I don’t know what happened”, he confided hot, on a cloud, before leaving the Arthur Ashe court where the feat and the ovation of the public had clouded his eyes. He will face, for a place in the semi-finals, the Russian Andrey Rublev (11e) who got rid of Briton Cameron Norrie (9e) in three sets (6-4, 6-4, 6-4).
Swiatek scares himself
In the women’s draw, the American Jessica Pegula (8e) easily eliminated Czech Petra Kvitova (6-3, 6-2) and will play her first quarter-final at Flushing Meadows. It will be against the world number 1 Iga Swiatek who scared herself before finally beating the German Jule Niemeier (108e) in three sets (2-6, 6-4, 6-0), in an erratic match where a total of 76 unforced errors were committed and 12 breaks were made.
“It’s really satisfying”however, commented the 21-year-old Polish. “It will be my first quarter-final in New York, so I’m really proud”, added the double winner of Roland-Garros (2020, 2022).
Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, 6e and semi-finalist of the event last year, also qualified for the quarter-finals on Monday after her victory over the American Danielle Collins (19e) in three sets (3-6, 6-4, 6-2). She will face the Czech Karolina Pliskova (22e), finalist in 2016, who fought hard (7-5, 6-7, 5-7, 6-2) to dismiss Belarusian Victoria Azarenka (26e).