South Africa’s Lloyd Harris stuns Rafael Nadal at Citi Open third round

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DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MARCH 16: Lloyd Harris of South Africa reacts during his singles match against Dominic Thiem of Austria during Day Ten of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on March 16, 2021 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

South African Lloyd Harris claimed one of the biggest wins of his career after he defeated 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in the third round of the Citi Open in Washington.

Harris, ranked 50th in the world, defeated the world number three 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in just over two hours to book his place in the quarterfinals where he will face Japan’s Kei Nishikori.

FILE PHOTO: Lloyd Harris of South Africa reacts during a past tennis singles match. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Harris hit 16 winners to Nadal’s eight while managing to save two-thirds of the break points (four of six) against him while converting a similar percentage of break points (two of three) his opponent faced.

It was a first victory for Harris against Nadal in what was their first meeting, a feat last achieved by Canadian Denis Shapovalov in Montreal in 2017.

This was Nadal’s second match since his epic semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic at the French Open in June and he was carrying a foot injury sustained in a three-set victory on Wednesday against American Jack Sock.

The 35-year-old, however, was more optimistic about coming through the match without a bigger injury scare and focusing on the days ahead.

“Best news, the foot was better,” Nadal said. “I was able to move a bit better, so that’s very important, especially for me personally, to keep enjoying the sport and keep having energy, believing that important things are possible.”

“I need to keep improving,” Nadal added. “I had a lot of problems with my foot. I was not able to practice all the days that I really wanted, but I did as much as I could.

“And I tried hard here. I try very hard. But was not enough. I’m going to keep trying to practice the proper way and to give myself a chance to be better soon.”

Harris, meanwhile, was ecstatic at having taken down one of the game’s all-time greats in what he described as the greatest victory of his career.

“Today was really special,” Harris said. “I’ve had some big wins and I’ve beaten some Grand Slam champions, but to beat a 20-time Grand Slam champion in front of a full crowd with such an amazing atmosphere, it was definitely something very special. I would definitely put it up there for sure.

“I’m just super happy with how everything turned out.”

The next major event on the tennis calendar is the year’s final Grand Slam, the U.S. Open which will begin at the end of this month.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

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