A night after surviving American Jack Sock in a three-hour, four-minute thriller in his opening match, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (1), Rafael Nadal was pushed to the limits against another inspired opponent in Washington D.C. on Thursday night, but this time he couldn’t escape, falling to South Africa’s Lloyd Harris, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, in the round of 16.

Harris’ win over the No. 3-ranked Nadal is the biggest win of his career.

“It’s amazing to play a player of his caliber out here, and to beat him is a very special moment in my career. Probably the best win I’ve ever had,” Harris said.

“To have it in front of all these fans makes it so much better.”

Things could have gone either way in the first set. Harris drew first blood with a break for 4-3 and found himself serving for the set at 5-4. Nadal brought up break point in that game, but Harris rattled off three winners in a row—including a massive forehand up the line on the run on set point—to get out of trouble and put away the first set.

Nadal caught fire from 1-all in the second set, winning five games in a row to even it at a set apiece and push the match to a third, where the two stayed on serve until the very last game. That’s when Harris pounced one more time, as a Nadal approach shot on match point clipped the net and sat up for the South African, who eventually lobbed the Spaniard to close it out after two hours and 10 minutes on court.

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Nadal was playing just his second match in 55 days on Thursday night, having beaten Sock on Wednesday night.

Nadal was playing just his second match in 55 days on Thursday night, having beaten Sock on Wednesday night.

“The second set was not bad, I think it was just one or two points that went his way,” Harris said in his on-court interview. “I knew I just had to be a little more patient and a little more solid. That’s what I tried to do in the third, and it really paid off.”

Nadal played well in the match, finishing with a +15 differential of winners to unforced errors, 26 to 11. Harris was just a little bit better, though, at +17 (38 to 21).

Nadal, who was playing just his second match in 55 days and had struggled with his foot against Sock the night before, gave all credit to Harris afterwards.

“I was ready,” the Spaniard said. “The most positive thing is my foot was better today than yesterday, so that’s the best news possible. I played against a player that played well. For the moment, I played better than yesterday, but in the third set when I had opportunities, the truth is his serve was huge, and I played this last game really bad.

“So that’s the sport. You can’t have mistakes in the key moments, and in the key moments I think in the last game, I was a little bit more nervous. My serve was not working the proper way. And that’s it. Well done for him. It’s a great victory for him.

"I wish him all the very best.”

Before his win over No. 3 Nadal, Harris' biggest career win came against a No. 4-ranked Dominic Thiem in Dubai this year.

Before his win over No. 3 Nadal, Harris' biggest career win came against a No. 4-ranked Dominic Thiem in Dubai this year.

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So what’s next for the 20-time Grand Slam champion?

“Yeah, for me is just keep going,” he said. “Accept the challenge that I need to keep working, and I have probably another chance next week in Toronto.

“I’m going to keep trying my best.”

Harris is the first player to win their first career meeting against Nadal since Denis Shapovalov beat the Spaniard in the third round in Montreal in 2017.

The South African also improved to 2-5 in his career against Top 10 players, winning at least a set in six of those seven matches. His other Top 10 win came against a No. 4-ranked Dominic Thiem in the second round of Dubai earlier this year.