Rafael Nadal’s curious US Open exit brings intriguing quarter-final line-up


This time, the reason for the men’s side of the US Open being blown apart was not quite as dramatic. Two years on from Novak Djokovic’s sudden disqualification for accidentally striking a line judge with a ball hit in anger, Rafael Nadal’s fourth-round defeat to Frances Tiafoe will have a similar impact on the draw and already guarantees there will be a first-time grand slam champion in New York by the end of the week.

Unlike Djokovic’s infamous moment of frustration, it was possible to see Nadal’s defeat coming, even if it still required an immense performance from Tiafoe to end the Spaniard’s run at the grand slams. After winning the Australian Open and French Open, and then pulling out of his Wimbledon semi-final against Nick Kyrgios, a streak of 22 wins in the majors and one of the most remarkable of grand slam seasons is over.

If Nadal’s victories in Melbourne and Paris were defined by sensational comebacks and a refusal to submit, to his opponent as well as a creaking body and looming threat of retirement, his defeat in Flushing Meadows lacked the fire to quell what was an inspired display from Tiafoe. Nadal’s own performance was error-strewn and forgiving. Unlike at Wimbledon, when Nadal pounced upon the first signs of doubt from Taylor Fritz in his quarter-final comeback, Tiafoe was the player encouraged to attack.

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