22nd Seed Frances Tiafoe of the U.S. beat second seed Rafael Nadal of Spain 6-4 4-6 6-4 6-3 in a fourth-round match at the US Open in New York on Monday. With this win, the 24-year-old Tiafoe ended Nadal’s chances of winning what would have been a record-equaling fifth US Open title and also his third Grand Slam title of the year.
Tiafoe will take on Andrey Rublev of Russia in a quarterfinal on Wednesday. Now, we would take a look at three factors that stood out in the match:
#1 Tiafoe won the first set playing aggressively:
Tiafoe won the first set playing aggressive tennis. Both players held their serve for the first six games, but Tiafoe then got the vital break in the seventh game and then held his serve to lead 5-3. The American thus went on to win the first set by serving out it in the 10th game.
Tiafoe adopted an aggressive approach from the beginning to take the attack to the 36-year-old Spaniard. He often played approach shots before advancing to the net to finish points with volleys. Nadal also played his sliced returns too often, providing his opponent with enough short balls for the latter to hit forehand winners. It was a contest between Tiafoe’s attacking approach and Nadal’s defensive abilities from the very beginning.
#2 Nadal bounced back to win the second set:
Nadal, however, came back quite characteristically in the second set. He managed to break Tiafoe once and never lost his own serve to draw level. Tiafoe continued his aggressive approach in the second set, too, but was error-prone off his backhand wing.
Nadal took advantage of the above and made Tiafoe move from side to side to test the American’s court-coverage. The Spaniard moved well himself, too, and capitalized on Tiafoe’s high-risk approach to hit a few quality forehand passes.
#3 Tiafoe raised his level to win the next two sets:
Tiafoe was not deterred by the reversal in the second set and improved his game to win the next two sets. He remained a break-up in the third set to win it and then broke Nadal twice more in the second set, including in the final game of the match.
Tiafoe kept rushing the net frequently throughout the match and won most of the associated points. His serve also bailed him out on a few occasions as the American finished the match with 18 aces. Nadal, too served well and fired 18 aces himself. However, he also committed nine double faults. Tiafoe hit a lot of winners off his forehand and finished the match with 49 against Nadal’s 33.
Main Photo from Getty.