NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 05: Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts against Frances Tiafoe of the United States during their Men’s Singles Fourth Round match on Day Eight of the 2022 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 05, 2022 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Mike Stobe/Getty Images/AFP == FOR NEWSPAPERS, INTERNET, TELCOS & TELEVISION USE ONLY ==

After his surprising and well-earned knockout round at the US Open, the badly marked Rafael Nadal just wanted to go home. “I have much more important things to take care of than tennis,” said the Spaniard, who longed to be by the side of his heavily pregnant wife Xisca Perelló. “Now is the moment to have my first son and hope everything will be fine.”

The prospect of soon being a father should comfort him that he clearly missed his 23rd Grand Slam title in New York. In the 4: 6, 6: 4, 4: 6 and 3: 6 in the round of 16 against Frances Tiafoe, Nadal was physically and playfully unable to stop the American, who was triumphant like unleashed.

In tennis you have to be “very fast and very young – and I’m not at the moment,” said 36-year-old Nadal with a wry smile.

Of course, he also knows that injuries increase with his age, regeneration takes longer – and that young stars like Tiafoe, Nick Kyrgios and compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, who could snatch world number one from under his nose after the tournament, are getting better and better.

For him it is now time for “a new start, it’s been a tough couple of months,” said the tired-looking Mallorquin. When he returns to the professional tour, he left open: “If I feel like I’m ready for the competition, then I’ll be there.”

Against Tiafoe, Nadal wasn’t ready. The outsider wore down the world star with 49 winning shots, sometimes snotty balls and the typical American self-confidence.

Nadal, who had stopped an abdominal muscle injury before the Wimbledon semifinals, did not want to blame his injury history. “I have to be critical of myself,” he said. “I faced a player who was better than me. And that’s why I now have a return flight home.”.