In Stunner, Nadal Falls in Third Round of D.C.’s Citi Open (photos)


In a monumental upset, Rafael Nadal, the Citi Open’s top seed, was bested by 24-year-old South African Lloyd Harris before another full house on Thursday night in Washington D.C.  Harris efficiently used his 6-foot-4 frame to deliver 16 service aces, eventually prevailing 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in the final game by breaking Nadal’s serve in a match that lasted 2 hours and 11 minutes.

It was the Spaniard Nadal’s first tournament action since the French Open two months ago. The rust in his game became apparent the previous evening when he struggled against American Jack Sock in a marathon match decided by a tie-breaker in the final set. A nagging foot injury had already kept Nadal, 35, out of Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics.

Nadal has won 20 Grand Slam men’s singles titles, an all-time record shared with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Harris has only once made it as far as the third round at a major and has a current world ranking of 50. It was Nadal’s first appearance at the the 52-year-old tennis tournament in Rock Creek Park and the crowd was clearly on his side. Harris became only the second player ever to defeat Nadal in a first meeting.

The match was just one of a plethora of upsets at the tournament. In preceding action on Thursday, the 2-seed Félix Auger-Aliassime of Canada was defeated by American Jenson Brooksby, Kei Nishikori of Japan beat 7-seed Cameron “Cam” Norrie of Britain, and John Millman of Australia took care of 8-seed American Reilly Opelka. It leaves only Jannik Sinner of Italy, who at number 5 is the only one of the top-ten seeded players remaining to make their way into the quarter finals.

The most important event on Nadal’s upcoming schedule is the US Open, which begins on August 30. Harris advances to the Citi Open quarter finals on Friday against Kei Nishikori of Japan.

View Jeff Malet’s photos of Thursday’s action from courtside at the Citi Open by clicking on the photo icons below.

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