Francis Tiafoe beat second-placed Rafael Nadal to reach the US Open quarter-finals

Francis Tiafoe’s vision was blurred by tears. He was thrilled – even vented – when the last point ended and he was stunned that, yes, he finished Rafael Nadal’s 22-game winning streak on Monday and reached the US Open quarter-finals for the first time.

“It felt like the world had stopped,” said Tiafoe. I couldn’t hear anything for a minute.

Tiafoe then found himself “lost in the locker room” when he saw that NBA star LeBron James had given him Twitter shout out.

“Brother,” said Tiafoe, “I was going crazy.”

What Tiafoe means the most is his 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 22-time major champion Nadal in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, though, as he was looking at his guest at Arthur Ash Books and finding out that his parents, Constant and Alvina, they were there.

“To see them try me out beating Rafa Nadal — they saw me take big wins, but to beat these guys,” said Tiafoe, 24, “Mount Rushmore? For them, I can’t imagine what was going through their heads.” – The 22-year-old American seed at the US Open. “I mean they will remember today for the rest of their lives.”

His parents immigrated to the United States from Sierra Leone in West Africa amid the civil war in the 1990s. They ended up in Maryland, where Constant helped build a junior tennis training center and then became a maintenance worker there; Frances said Alvina was “a nurse, working two jobs, working overtime during the night.” Born in 1998, Francis and his twin brother Franklin would soon be spending hour after hour as dad’s job, rackets at hand.

Perhaps one day, the dream is gone, a college scholarship will come from it.

“It wasn’t supposed to be anything like this,” Tiafoe said Monday night, hours after his biggest win.

He’s the youngest American man to reach this far at the US Open since Andy Roddick in 2006, but this wasn’t a case of a one-sided crowd supporting one. Nadal is as popular as in tennis and he heard a lot of support as the volume was raised after the retractable roof closed in the fourth set.

“That’s something you say to the children, the grandchildren: Yes, you have defeated Rafa,” said Tiafoe, with a big smile.

“I played a bad game, played a good game”

He served better than Nadal, seeded No. 2. And most surprisingly, he came back even better. He kept his cool, stayed in the moment and didn’t let the bets or the opponent get to him. Nadal, 36, from Spain, has won both of their previous games, and in every set he’s played as well.

“Well, the difference is easy,” Nadal said. “I played a bad game and he played a good game.” “In the end that’s it.”

The surprise came a day after Tiafoe followed on TV when his friend Nick Kyrgios “made an offer” and knocked out top seed and defender Daniil Medvedev. This makes this the first US Open without any of the top two seeded players making it to the quarter-finals since 2000, when top seed Andre Agassi and second seed Gustavo Kuerten knocked out in the first round.

That was before Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who has won 21 Grand Slam titles, and Roger Federer, who has 20 titles, began to dominate men’s tennis. Djokovic, 35, did not participate in this US Open because he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 and was not allowed to enter the United States; Federer, 41, underwent a series of operations on his right knee and the last time he played at Wimbledon was last year.

Now comes the inevitable questions of whether their era of excellence is coming to an end.

“It shows that the years are passing,” Nadal said. It is the circle of life.

Tiafoe now meets 9th seed Andrey Rublev, who beat 7th seed Kam Nuri 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 earlier on Monday.

Other men’s matches in Monday’s schedule: 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic versus third seed Carlos Alcaraz, and No. 11 Yannick Sener against Ilya Ivachka.

Swiatek gets rid of early struggles to advance

The top seed, Iga Swiatek, moved into the quarter-finals for the first time at Flushing Meadows after coming back to defeat Julie Niemeyer 2-6, 6-4, 6-0.

“I’m just proud that I haven’t given up hope,” Swiatek said.

The 21-year-old will face the Polish woman in the US Open quarter-finals for the first time: 8th seed Jessica Pegula, the top American woman, who advanced with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Wimbledon twice. Winner Petra Kvitova.

Karolina Pliskova, a two-time quarter-finalist, will face sixth seed Arina Sabalenka.