Frances Tiafoe defeated 22-time grand slam champion Rafael Nadal on Monday night in a stunning upset at the U.S. Open. The 24-year-old now becomes the youngest American man to reach U.S. Open quarterfinals since 2006.
Tiafoe beat Nadal 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a match that lasted over three hours in the fourth round of the tournament. In a post-match news conference, Tiafoe called it a "hell of a performance" after handing this year's Australian Open and French Open champ his first Grand Slam loss of 2022.
"I felt like the world stopped," said Tiafoe, who is ranked No. 26 in men's tennis. "I couldn't hear anything for a minute."
Athletes and other prominent figures gave Tiafoe his props, including NBA superstar LeBron James.
"CONGRATS Young King!!! You earned it!" James wrote on Twitter, while sharing a video of Tiafoe celebrating.
Tiafoe said he was "losing it in the locker room" when he saw James' shout-out.
"Bro, I was going crazy. That's my guy," he said, adding that Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul also texted him.
"That's super cool, the fact that they're watching right now," he said.
Washington Wizards sharpshooter Bradley Beal, who is Tiafoe's favorite NBA player, attended the match. Beal tweeted after his win, "BIG FOE!!!"
Legendary singer Anita Baker also congratulated him, tweeting, "WE. BELIEVE."
Tiafoe, who hails from Maryland, also reflected on his parents being able to watch him defeat one of the game's legends and said they're going "to remember today for the rest of their lives."
"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," he said.
His parents, who immigrated from Sierra Leone, met in the U.S. and had twins, Frances and Franklin. His father worked on construction of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in 1999 and later became head of maintenance of the facility. Tiafoe's mother was a nurse, "working two jobs and working overtime through the nights." The young brothers would train at the facility where their dad worked, and he hoped one day they could be good enough to earn a scholarship for college because the family couldn't afford it.
"Us being around tennis was kind of — gets us, getting out of our neighborhood," he said Monday. "My dad kind of being able to watch us. It wasn't anything supposed to be like this. Once we got in the game of tennis, it was like, my dad was like, It would be awesome if you guys can use this as a full scholarship to school."
Tiafoe became the youngest American to reach U.S. Open quarterfinals since 24-year-old Andy Roddick was a finalist 16 years ago. Up next for him is Russian tennis player Andrey Rublev, who is ranked No. 11. They play Wednesday.
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