Mats Wilander and Alex Corretja were both in awe of an “unbelievable” performance from Frances Tiafoe as he beat Rafael Nadal to reach the US Open quarter-finals.
Tiafoe, the 22nd seed in New York, hit 49 winners in a hugely impressive victory over 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal.
It was Tiafoe’s first win over Nadal in three attempts and he is into his first major quarter-final, where he will play ninth seed Andrey Rublev.
“Unbelievably smart first of all,” said Eurosport expert Wilander on Tiafoe.
“He is so physical and strong and he serves better than ever before so he gets a lot of free points. The backhand, I thought he wasn’t going to hit as hard as he needed to, and he did. He stepped into it, took it early, went cross court hard, down the line, he came to the net as well, so the variety of tactics was brilliant.
“He is so quick on the court and then he was committed to his tactics from the first point to the last point. He has a perfect game. His forehand is such a big weapon, he moves unbelievably well, and he deserved to win today, for sure he was the better player.
“He put a lot of stress into Nadal’s game and he was missing a little more than we are used to, because he hasn’t played hardly any matches since Wimbledon. It’s easy to play the right way but to believe and do it until the very end is extraordinary.”
Tiafoe had lost both previous meetings with Nadal in straight sets but had said beforehand he believed he could pull off an upset.
He delivered on his words and blew the men’s draw wide open, with second seed Nadal following top seed Daniil Medvedev out of the tournament.
“He played unbelievable from the beginning, very aggressive, he was hitting winners all over the place and serving great,” said Eurosport expert Corretja.
“All the credit to him. It’s so difficult to beat Rafa in this stadium and he did it. It was so important for him to believe he could do it.
“Tiafoe hung in there and looked fresh. It was difficult for Rafa to find a way to hurt him.”
Nadal, who will return to No. 1 in the world after the US Open unless Casper Ruud or Carlos Alcaraz reach the final, suggested after the loss that he may take some time away from tennis.
Nadal had only played one competitive match ahead of the US Open since withdrawing from the Wimbledon semi-finals with an abdominal issue.
Reflecting on Nadal’s display, Wilander added: “We have to remember that Rafa hasn’t played enough tennis. It’s a miracle he has won two Grand Slams this year and made the Wimbledon semi-finals.
“If you look at his regular tournaments and the results and tell me he’s won two Grand Slams, that’s unbelievable. It wasn’t expected but I think the players know when Rafa is not quite at his 100 per cent level.”
Corretja added: “I think physically Nadal wasn’t at his best, he didn’t have enough energy to get behind the ball and dictate. He was getting a little late to the ball and when you play someone like Tiafoe who is pushing so much that is so tough. I felt like for Rafa he was lacking a bit of power.”