Frances Tiafoe ‘ready for next step’: ‘Being the only player to beat Rafael Nadal in a Slam this year was crazy’

Shahida Jacobs
Frances Tiafoe in action

He “fell a little short”, but Frances Tiafoe still notched up several memorable moments during his run to the US Open final with his win over Rafael Nadal one of his highlights.

The American stunned the 22-time Grand Slam winner Nadal in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, winning in four sets to reach the quarter-final of his home major for the first time.

And he backed it up in the last eight as he produced a clinic three-set win over ninth seed Andrey Rublev, but his journey came to an end in the semi-final as he lost a five-set marathon against Carlos Alcaraz with the teenager winning 6-7 (6-8), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5-8), 6-3 after a four-hour and 19-minute tussle.

The ultimate dream for Tiaifoe remains to win a Grand Slam, but there are a lot of positives from his fortnight in New York.

“Craziest two weeks of my life. Stuff you dream about doing. Fell a little short. But … getting to the fourth round three years in a row, that’s already a good accomplishment,” the 24-year old said.

“Beating Rafa, being the only player to beat Rafa in a Slam this year, the year he’s had. Him being in the race to be No 1 in the world, shut that down.”

Nadal won the Australian Open and French Open and reached the semi-final of Wimbledon before withdrawing due to injury.

Tiafoe added: “Just saying you beat him in a Grand Slam. Me beating him two-out-of-three, Grand Slam, it’s not an easy task. To have my first time beat him here in New York in front of everybody and seeing what that meant, that was crazy.

“Being able to back it up, too. A lot of people beat him and don’t back it up. That was a lot of growth coming out. And playing Andrey and beating him, then playing an unbelievable match tonight. Crazy two weeks. I really need to soak it in to give you an answer.”

Tiafoe, the first Black American to reach the US Open semi-final since Arthur Ashe in 1972, reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the 2019 Australian Open and also reached the last eight of the Miami Masters that year, but he failed to really cement his place at the top.

This year he finished runner-up at the Estoril Open and also made it to the fourth round of Wimbledon for the first time.

“I’m definitely falling in love with the process and doing the work much more. I’m working smarter,” he said.

The American added: “Obviously through my career I’ve been pretty sporadic of playing well, veering off for a while. I’ve always backed myself against the best players in the world. I’m doing it on a consistent basis, starting to beat guys more readily. [I’m] ready to take the next step.”