US Open: Lucas Pouille stuns fourth seed Rafael Nadal in fifth set tiebreak epic

In the upset of the tournament so far, 24th-seeded Frenchman Lucas Pouille stunned two-time US Open champion Rafael Nadal and a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, knocking out the fourth seed in a five set epic. In just over four hours of electric play, the 22-year-old Frenchman pulled off the upset, ousting Nadal 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 to advance to a first quarterfinal here in New York. 

Pouille routs Nadal in dominant opening set

Pouille began the fourth round encounter strongly, holding easily to begin before snatching the immediate break of the Nadal serve for 2-0. The Frenchman capitalized on some early errors from the Spaniard, consolidating the break for an early lead. A solid volley winner from Nadal helped get the two-time US Open champion on the board before some more inspired play from Pouille saw a hold to love for 4-1. 

The 24th seed kept up the aggressive mindset, taking another break off some big backhands to go up 5-1 and grant himself the chance to serve the set out. Despite a short-lived fight back from Nadal, the 22-year-old Pouille used some big serving on key points, taking a dominant first set 6-1 to the surprise of the packed Ashe crowd. 

Lucas Pouille reaches for a backhand at the US Open in New York City/Getty Images
Lucas Pouille reaches for a backhand at the US Open in New York City/Getty Images

Nadal fights back in routine second set

After a routine hold for Nadal to begin the set, the Spaniard kept his fight back going, breaking the Frenchman before going on to hold for a quick 3-0 lead. A rattled but not broken Pouille stepped back up, taking a routine hold for 3-1, only before the former world number one and 14-time major champion took care of his serve for a commanding 4-1 lead. 

The pair then exchanged holds of serve for 5-2, with Pouille set to serve to stay in the second set. With the pressure of serving to stay in the set, Pouille blinked, double-faulting to gift Nadal the second set and putting the match level at a set apiece. 

Rafael Nadal hits a forehand at the US Open in New York City/Getty Images
Rafael Nadal hits a forehand at the US Open in New York City/Getty Images

Pouille digs in to take tight third set 

After an inspired Nadal fightback the previous set, Pouille's great performance resumed in the third, with some big hitting from the Frenchman securing him a break and an early 2-0 lead. The two then held onto their serves for the ensuing six games with Pouille up 5-3 to force Nadal to serve to stay in the set and avoid going down two sets to one.

Some clutch serving from Nadal secured him a hold to bring it to 5-4, forcing the French youngster to serve it out. Pouille did just that, keeping his composure to seal the third set 6-4 and put himself a set from the biggest win of his blossoming career. 

Lucas Pouille strikes a forehand at the US Open in New York City/US Open
Lucas Pouille strikes a forehand at the US Open in New York City/US Open

Inspired Nadal fights back to stay alive in fourth 

After four straight holds of serve to begin the fourth set, Nadal began to find his range more, forcing some errors from Pouille to hold for 3-2. The following game, the Spaniard amped up his level, forcing a nervy double fault from the 24th seed to break and go up 4-2. 

Unphased, Pouille kept plugging away at Nadal, snatching the break right back to put the match back on serve at 4-3. The nine-time French Open champion then took the break right back, forcing errors out of Pouille to go up 5-3 and serve for the set.

Serving out the set, Nadal raised his level once again, pushing Pouille around the court with some big groundstrokes and sealing the fourth set with a big forehand winner to level the match at two sets all and force a fifth set. 

Rafael Nadal celebrates winning a big point at the US Open in New York City/Getty Images
Rafael Nadal celebrates winning a big point at the US Open in New York City/Getty Images

Pouille holds nerve to stun Nadal in fifth set tiebreak 

With the pressure of the fifth set now alive, Nadal came out in full swing early on, breaking immediately before consolidating that break for a 2-0 lead. The pair then exchanged holds of serve until 4-2, where an inspired Pouille raised his level again, holding before breaking the two-time US Open champion to level the set at  4-all. 

Pouille and Nadal then split holds of serve for 5-all, with the pressure deep in a fifth set beginning to mount as the two battled on. Pouille held off a crafty volley winner to go up 6-5, forcing the Spaniard to serve to keep his US Open alive the next game.

Nadal reacted well to the pressure, holding easily to stay alive and force a decisive fifth set tiebreak, one of the unique features of the US Open amongst the other majors. 

Nadal began the tiebreak strongly, gaining the early mini-break for a 1-0 lead before Pouille fought back, stealing two mini-breaks to go up 2-1. Some big serving from the 22-year-old gave him a 4-1 lead in the breaker before an inspired fightback from Nadal brought it to 4-3. The Frenchman kept up his incredible level of play as the pressure soared, holding on to go up 6-3 and bring up three match points. 

The two-time US Open champion amped up his level, saving both match points on his serve to force 24th seeded Pouille to serve out the match. The 14-time major winner kept fighting, saving a third match point to level at six-all.

After saving three match points, a stroke of luck hit the Frenchman, with a seemingly nervous Nadal dumping an easy forehand put away into the net at six-all to give Pouille another match point at 7-6.

Unlike the last time, Pouille was determined to make this one count, playing an amazing match point punctuated with a huge forehand winner to clinch the shock five-set upset, Pouille claiming the biggest win of his career in five sets to send the fourth seed Nadal packing. 

Rafael Nadal leaves Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open in New York City/Getty Images
Rafael Nadal leaves Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open in New York City/Getty Images
VAVEL Logo