Rafa Nadal called out by youngster in fierce pledge following Richard Gasquet masterclass

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Rafael Nadal has been called out by his US Open fourth round opponent Frances Tiafoe, who believes he can get the better of the Spaniard. The youngster set-up a showdown with the 22-time Grand Slam champion after seeing off Diego Schwartzman in his third round encounter on Saturday.

“Now I believe I can beat him – I’m definitely going to come after him,” exclaimed Tiafoe, who has lost his previous two encounters against the 36-year-old. “[I need to] match his intensity from the first point to the last. You can’t really have any dips – he takes advantage of it.”

Tiafoe was forced to work for his victory over Schwartzman after being broken twice in the first set. But he recovered to win the showdown 7-6 6-4 6-4.

And the 24-year-old American added: “I thought it was a hell of a match. Especially that first set – one of the craziest sets I’ve played in my career. It had everything in it. Down two breaks, serving again at 6-5, me down 6-3 in the breaker. Unbelievable how I even won the set.”

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Nadal has four US Open titles to his name, with his last one coming in 2019. But he was absent from the 2020 edition of the tournament due to COVID-19 concerns and was also forced to miss last year’s event as he nursed a long-term foot injury.

Nadal had been tipped to retire from tennis last year due to the issue with his foot, but returned to the court at the start of this year and has enjoyed a sensational season. The veteran became the most successful men’s player in history as he landed his 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, before extending his record by tasting success at the French Open in June.

And following his victory over Gasquet, Nadal exclaimed: “All these victories help to be a little bit more confident. It’s a moment to increase, to making a step forward. Second week against a great player like Frances, I need to be ready to play and to raise my level. I hope to be able to make that happen. I know [it] is the right moment to make an improvement if I want to keep having chances to keep going on the tournament.”

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