Frances Tiafoe advances to US Open semifinals – The Washington Post

Frances Tiafoe advances to US Open semifinals - The Washington Post

NEW YORK – In an interview with John McEnroe about the pressure he feels as the last American man standing at the U.S. Open, Frances Tiafoe sent tennis into a frenzy for words.

Tiafoe was aware of the stakes attached to his run through the final Grand Slam tournament of the year as it relates to US men’s tennis: No man since Andy Roddick in 2003 has won the US Open – or any major tournament. No man since Roddick in 2006 has even made the semifinals. Before Tiafoe beat Rafael Nadal on Monday to reach the quarterfinals, the most recent American quarterfinalist came in 2018, when John Isner emerged.

“To be honest – it sounds weird – I actually don’t care!” said Tiafoe, laughing on ESPN, while McEnroe stammered in disbelief. “I’m happy – I want to win for me, I don’t want this whole 19-year-old thing – and then, I’ll be like, ‘Yeah! I don’t have to hear that anymore!’

“Rafa and these guys won slams, I don’t care what your flag was. But there is an opening now, and I want to do it. I believe I can do it this year.”

Frances Tiafoe has the US Open crowd – and LeBron James – on her side

Tiafoe played with two powerful emotions driving him Wednesday in what was either the biggest or second biggest match of his career after Monday, depending on how you look at it. A sense of freedom and self-belief helped power him to a 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-0), 6-4 victory over world number 11 Andrey Rublev to send him to the first Grand Slam. semi-final of his career.

Whether the 24-year-old wants to hear it or not, he is also the first American man to reach a US Open semi-final in 16 years. He is also the first black man to reach a US Open semifinal since Arthur Ashe in 1972.

He advances to face either world No. 4 Carlos Alcaraz or No. 13 Jannik Sinner on Friday as the men’s tournament is wide open for the takers. None of the five players left here has a Grand Slam trophy. One of them, seventh-ranked Casper Ruud of Norway, has never won a tournament rated above the lowest tier on the ATP three-tier ranking system.

Ruud has a chance to be ranked #1 at the end of the US Open.

Why wouldn’t Tiafoe believe he can take it all?

The native of Hyattsville, Md. looked light and breezy playing under a closed roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium, especially compared to Rublev. The Russian 24-year-old has been trying to get over the quarter-final hump at a Grand Slam – he has now gone to six without a win.

However, Rublev posed a serious threat on paper. He possesses a powerful forehand and the ability to plop it seemingly anywhere he wants at a given moment. He has great match experience, having recorded wins over Roger Federer (in 2019), Nadal (in 2021 on clay) and Novak Djokovic (in 2022).

Tiafoe looked unfazed. Just as he did against Nadal, he remained calm during a cracking first set in which rallies were kept short and winners were plentiful. Tiafoe served brilliantly from the start, blasting 18 aces in total.

His serve helped him jump to a 4-2 lead in the tie, at which point swagger took over from calm a bit and Arthur Ashe Stadium drank it in, starting a “Let’s go Frances” cheer to punctuate all the other cries.

Tiafoe kept his celebrations simple and effective – flexing his muscles here, asking for more crowd noise there. After some particularly amazing shots, he held his hand up as if seasoning a dish – because he put a little extra on that one.

Rublev, meanwhile, descended into a cocktail of anger and misery. As a top junior – who also lost to Tiafoe in the quarterfinals of the 2014 boys’ tournament here – the Russian had a penchant for massive tantrums on court.

On Wednesday, he hit his racket against his leg after trailing 4-0 in the second-set tie. He swore by his box. And in the third set, he appeared to bite a tennis ball before burying his face in his towel, red rings around his eyes turning purple.

Tiafoe was so frustrating. The Marylander leapt across court and up to net, avoiding Rublev’s forehand and playing as if he couldn’t be touched.

He won 88 percent of his first serves, saved all four break points he faced and, catching two more break points, extended a 6-0 record in break points at this year’s US Open.

Tiafoe sealed the match so easily – with an ace. He let out a mighty roar afterwards, unburdened by the past.

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