Rafael Nadal became the top favorite to become world no. 1 after the US Open when Daniil Medvedev failed to defend the crown and 2000 points. Nadal had a massive lead over Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud at the start of the tournament, but it was not enough to keep him safe until the end of the event.
The Spaniard played only one match between Wimbledon and the US Open, and it was not enough to find the form and recover from an abdominal injury. Nadal scored three victories before experiencing a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 loss to Frances Tiafoe in the fourth round.
Thus, the 22-time Major winner imperiled his chances of becoming world no. 1 for the first time since early 2020. The American overpowered the Spaniard in three hours and 34 minutes, playing aggressive tennis and taking the crucial points.
The home star cracked 49 winners and 28 unforced errors and delivered five breaks to emerge at the top.
Rafael Nadal failed to take the ATP throne during the US Open.
Nadal grabbed only two return games and wasted a 3-1 advantage in the fourth set to hit the exit door.
Rafa needed that victory badly to mount more significant pressure on Alcaraz and Ruud. Had Nadal moved to 5990 points for the quarter-final, his rivals would have needed to win the title to pass him and steal the no. 1 honor from the veteran.
Instead, Rafa stayed on 5810 points, and the young guns seized their chances with both hands to eliminate him from the world no. 1 battle! Playing in his first US Open semi-final, Ruud defeated Karen Khachanov 7-6, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 for his second Major final after Roland Garros in June.
Thus, the Norwegian will play for the first Major crown and the ATP throne on Sunday against Carlos Alcaraz. The Spanish teenager is in the same position, chasing the first Major and hoping to become the youngest world no. 1 since the start of the ATP ranking in 1973!
Carlos survived three consecutive five-setters to move into his first Major final, toppling Frances Tiafoe 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 6-7, 6-3 in four hours and 19 minutes. Nadal will remain world no. 3 after the US Open, missing a massive chance to take the ATP throne at 36 years and three months and become the second-oldest world no.
1 after Roger Federer. Rafa’s last world no. 1 week came during the 2020 Australian Open, and it’s hard to expect more opportunities for him in the rest of the season. Nadal said he does not know when he will play again, expecting the first child and hoping to heal his injury before returning to the court.
The Spaniard has barely won a couple of ATP titles in the post-US Open period, and it’s unrealistic to expect them in the season’s closing months, especially on an indoor court. Rafa has won two Major titles this year, against all odds, but it will be hard to repeat that in 2023 with so many young players around.