Tiafoe after beating Nadal: “I felt like the world stopped”

Frances Tiafoe clinched the biggest win of his career on Monday against Rafael Nadal. A triumph he had been dreaming of for a very long time. But now he wants to go all the way in New York.

Frances Tiafoe, US Open 2022 Frances Tiafoe, US Open 2022 ; AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Frances Tiafoe sobbing on the Arthur Ashe Stadium after beating Rafael Nadal is a testament to the Big 3 (and 4) legacy. Beating one of them feels as big as winning a Grand Slam title. Beating one of them is on the list of career goals as much as winning a Grand Slam title. Tiafoe had it on his to-do list for a while now and he wanted it so bad that it made him improve again and again. Just to get a shot at those guys. Because, if you get one of them down, there is a fair chance that you’re already pretty deep in the Grand Slam draw.

“For a while there, I was like, ‘geez’. You see all these young guys get Rafa, Fed, Novak,” he said, after his fourth-round win. “Am I ever going to be able to say I beat one of them? Today I was like, no, I’m going to do that. So now, it’s something to tell the kids, the grandkids: I beat Rafa. Hopefully, I never play him again, but hope I end with a win (smiling). It was definitely one hell of a performance. I played really well. I just came out there and I just believed I could do it. I went out there trying to get a dub, and that’s what I did.”

Rafael Nadal and Frances Tiafoe USOpen 2022 @ AI / Reuters / Panoramic

So many milestones for Tiafoe on Monday! First US Open quarter-final, first win over Nadal, youngest (24- years old) American to reach the quarters here since Andy Roddick in 2004, and having his parents watching him on that court: those achievements mean even more when he reminds everybody where he’s coming from.

“I’m a son of immigrants, both parents grew up in Sierra Leone, born and raised in Sierra Leone. Came to the States early ’90s, late ’80s, around there. They met here, had me and my twin brother. My dad, being a maintenance worker at a club, help to build a club ’99. My mom being a nurse, working two jobs, working overtime through the nights. It wasn’t anything supposed to be like this. Once we got into tennis, my dad was like, It would be awesome if you guys can use this as a full scholarship to school. We couldn’t afford a university. So use the game of tennis.

“At that time watching Serena and Venus play the finals of Grand Slams at that time, when I was super young. I was like, how cool would it be to play Wimbledon, to play on Arthur Ashe and stuff like that. Yeah, I just had a big passion for the game. Not even mainly for me, but to do it for them. To see them experience me beat Rafa Nadal… They’ve seen me have big wins, but to beat those Mount Rushmore guys, for them, I can’t imagine what was going through their heads. They’re going to remember today for the rest of their lives.”

What Tiafoe will surely also remember for a while is to read LeBron James’ tweets about his win.

“Man, I was losing it in the locker room. Bro, I was going crazy (smiling). I mean, that’s my guy. So to see him post that, I was like, ‘Do I retweet it as soon as he sent it?’ I was like, You know what, I’m going to be cool and act like I didn’t see it and then retweet it three hours later (laughter)’. Obviously, he knows I’m a big fan of his. Got a text from Rich Paul as well. That’s super cool. The fact they’re watching right now. It’s a perfect time. US Open is always a perfect time because there are no real sports really going on. People can focus on tennis, which is great.”

This incredible performance against Nadal feels like the perfect reward for years of hardship and then hard work. As the younger generation starts to come on strong, it was becoming easy to forget Tiafoe was still aiming for the big titles too, that he had improved his net game and backhand so much that he indeed could do it.

He will now have to recover from all of this if he wants to get a step further because he won’t have it easy against Andrey Rublev. That’s the rough thing about beating a member of the Big 3 club before a final: you still have to go on. Even after your world has stopped. That’s what Tiafoe felt after the match point: that everything around him froze.

Tiafoe: “Even shaking his hand, I don’t even know what I said to him. It was such a blur”

“I was telling my agent, that I felt like the world stopped. I couldn’t hear anything for a minute. Even shaking his hand, I don’t even know what I said to him. It was such a blur. I was already tearing up. I could barely see him and my team. Everyone was up. It was just wild. My heart is going a thousand miles an hour. I was so excited. I was like, Let me sit down. I’ve never felt something like that in my life, honestly.”

Still, he believes he can do even greater things and, as this draw has become wide open, he’s ready to have a go at that title. “There’s no dark horse anymore. It’s all good. It helped me play well but I know what I can do, what I’m capable of doing these next couple matches if that happens. I still feel no pressure. I still feel like I’m not supposed to do anything. I’m just here to play great tennis and enjoy it. I’m having fun out there, as you can see.” Oh yes, we saw!

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1 response to “Tiafoe after beating Nadal: “I felt like the world stopped”

  1. Francis,this is incedible performance shown today. You made my day.congrats for such great display of talents.God can take a son of an immigrant and make him a super star.
    Francis you are my super star.i believe in you and you have fly high the flag of our small nation sierra leone high for the world to see. Keep pressing on i can see you bringing grand slam laurels or tropyies to sierra leone.
    May God keep you and preserve you.
    Hurry francis.

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