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Frances Tiafoe on Rafael Nadal: "I believe I can beat him. I'm definitely going to come after him"
They've played twice before, and Rafa has never lost a set. They'll meet again on Monday at the US Open.
Published Sep 04, 2022
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There's a big—BIG—gap between the career records of Rafael Nadal and Frances Tiafoe. But Tiafoe says that right now, there isn't as large a gap on court.
“I've just matured a lot. Then my game is gotten better. Usually I've been serving much better. I just have a lot more belief in myself. I'm happy where I'm at,” Tiafoe said following his third-round victory against No. 16 seed Diego Schwartzman at the US Open, 7-6 (7), 6-4, 6-4 . “I just have a good team around me, like everyone's super consistent.”
Nadal has won 22 Grand Slam titles; Tiafoe has yet to go further than a quarterfinal—Rafa defeated the American at that stage of the 2019 Australian Open, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. The same year, they played once more, and Nadal also won at Madrid, 6-3, 6-4.
But the 24-year-old Tiafoe says he's now more experienced, and won't be as nervous going up against his legendary opponent.
“I’m definitely a different player from 2019, playing much better. I'm not going to have that first time playing him, excited to play,” Tiafoe said. “Now I believe I can beat him. I'm definitely going to come after him.”
Of course, Tiafoe isn't taking his opponent lightly.
The 36-year-old Spaniard has won 92 titles, including four US Opens. He has one of the best forehands ever, with huge topspin; an excellent return often coming from far back in the court; his backhand has improved significantly throughout his career; and he's more than comfortable at the net.
But Tiafoe says the toughest challenge will be Nadal's competitiveness.
“I think for everybody is his intensity. Match his intensity from the first point to the last. You can't really have any dips,” Tiafoe said. “He takes advantage of it.
"Once he gets a hold of his forehand, it's tough to get him out of that pattern. I'm just going to have to be really aggressive and try to make him play to me, not me play to him.”
Tiafoe has not dropped a set so far in reaching the fourth round, while Nadal went four sets in his first two rounds.