(September 4, 2016) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – In the biggest upset of the 2016 US Open tournament so far, fourth seed and two-time champion Rafael Nadal lost to 24th seed Lucas Pouille 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6) in the fourth round. Pouille came back from being a break down in the fifth set to win the four-hour and seven minute match for the most important victory of his career.
Pouille will join fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final eighth. He’ll face ninth seeded Monfils for a palce in the semifinals, which guarantees a French semifinalist.
The last time three Frenchmen were in the quarterfinals of the US Open was back in 1927. Last time that three Frenchmen were in the final 8 of any major was the 1947 French Open.
The win means that the 22-year-old Pouille has won three straight five-setter in this US Open – second through fourth rounds – his first three five- set wins of his career.
“It took everything. I could not dream better than that,” the world No. 25 said on court after the match.
“I think it was the best atmosphere I played on a center court. Ashe is so big. I’m not used to play on this court. It was the first time. I practiced once last year.
“I didn’t even warm up on this court before the match, because otherwise I would have to come at 10:00 or 9:00 in the morning today. So at the end it was full. Sometimes I couldn’t even hear myself when I was saying, Allez, allez, allez. Sometimes you can’t even hear yourself.”
Nadal’s drought in major tournaments continued with the loss. This is the first time since 2004 that the 30-year-old Spaniard hasn’t reached a major quarterfinal in a season. The 14-time major champion lost in the first round of the Australian Open, withdrew from the French Open after the second round and missed Wimbledon with a wrist injury.
“I think he played a good match,” Nadal said. “He started so strong. I fight until the end with. There were things I could do better. Had the right attitude. I fighted right up to the last ball.
“But I need something else, I need something more that was not there today. I going to keep working to try to find.
“But, yes, was a very, very close match that anything could happen. Just congratulate the opponent that probably he played with better decision than me the last couple of points.”
“Needed to play with a little bit more calm,” he continued.
“Is true that I don’t have lot of matches on my shoulders for the last three, four months, but even like this I lost an opportunity. That’s the real thing, no? That’s the true. I lost an opportunity to have a very good event here. I am sad for that.”
Pouille who broke into the top 100 last year talked about the changes he made that have improved his game this year: “I moved to Dubai. We work a different way. We work, I think, harder. During the pre-season I change many things. I took my own physical trainer. He’s traveling almost every time with us so we can work every day. Even in tournaments we keep working. We keep working.
“I think mentally I’m stronger. I took a lot of confidence. The way I’m going on court is not the same as last year. Yeah, I think that’s why I’m better than the year before. Of course, I’m a bit older, as well.”
Evaluating Pouille, Nadal said: “He’s a player that has all the shots. He’s a potential top 10 and good fight for the big things the next couple of years. If he’s able to keep playing well, keep improving.”
“I lost an opportunity to play a great event,” Nadal said. “Doesn’t matter if I had the injuries or not, no? I didn’t play in Roland Garros; I didn’t play in Wimbledon. That’s an opportunities lost. Here again, another opportunity lost.
“At the end of the day is not a moment, as I said before, to find excuses or to be less painful. Is a painful defeat because I believe myself, I feel myself ready for that match, ready for the tournament. That’s it.
“We can find stories, but I lost. That’s the only thing that really matter now. I going to fight to change that. But is not less painful or more painful. Is a defeat. Is not the first one in my career; is not going to be for sure the last.
“When you play sport, you accept that when you go on court you can lose, you can win. That’s part of the life. I’m happy to be playing again. That’s the most important thing. I’m happy that I feel myself again close to be hundred percent healthy.
“If I am hundred percent healthy, I have the energy to keep going. I believe that I can have a couple of more good years.”
Pouille talke about playing his next opponent, countryman Gael Monfils: “He’s in very good form. He has won so many matches, yeah, for the last two months. He’s very confident. He hasn’t lost a set, so I know it’s going to be hard.
“But I’m playing well. I have good feelings on the court, so we’ll see. I think it’s going to be a tough match for me, but for him as well. It’s going to be interesting.”
Tenth seed Monfils beat Marcos Baghdatis 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 , while No. 9 seeded Tsonga topped 26th seed Jack Sock 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-2, the last man from the United States in the singles draw.
Tsonga will face Novak Djokovic to vie for a spot in the semifinal. Djokovic beat Kyle Edmund 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in the evening session.
“I think he was overwhelmed by the stage today, ” Djokovic said of Edmund. “I think he hasn’t played on the level that he can, to be honest. But his forehand is really big. When he sets it up very nicely, he can hit a very good forehand from all over the court.
“Obviously his first Arthur Ashe night session. His first match on the biggest stadium. He made a lot of errors. But generally he played a good tournament. He beat Gasquet; he beat Isner. For someone his age he’s showing mental maturity, no doubt. He’s getting things together.
“I am sure we going to see more of him in the future.”