THE NEW YORK Three American men reached the US Open semifinals on Sunday for the first time since 2005. All three champions—Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, and Ben Shelton—will play again on Tuesday for a spot in the semifinals.
Due to their accomplishment, Tiafoe and Shelton have become the first two Black American men to advance this far in a major competition since 1968.
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The countrymen as a whole have had a comeback season. Recent years have seen extensive documentation of the difficulties facing American men. Since Andy Roddick's US Open victory in 2003, no fellow countryman has won a major championship, and none has advanced to the final since 2009. Since Roddick's victory, four American women have won Slam titles, and now a new generation of great young Americans is starting to change the fortunes of the men in the sport.
Two American guys -- Fritz and Tiafoe -- are rated in the top 10 for the first time in more than a decade. The top 50 presently include eight. In January, Tommy Paul, who fell to Shelton on Sunday, advanced to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open; this week in Queens, at least one American is certain to at least achieve the same feat.
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Taylor Fritz, the top-ranked American male in the world, will have to compete against Novak Djokovic. TK Position 9
Best result from a major before: quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2022
Following: Novak Djokovic
Fritz, the top-ranked American and 2015 US Open junior champion, defeated Dominic Stricker in straight sets on Sunday to progress to his maiden New York quarterfinals. Since the beginning of 2022, Fritz has won five ATP championships, notably at the Masters 1000-level Indian Wells, where he overcame Rafael Nadal in the final. A few months later, at Wimbledon, Fritz made it to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Prior to traveling to New York, he hadn't progressed past the third round at a major tournament this year, but he had won two hard-court championships, one of which was in Atlanta. He acknowledged that his recent success and subpar Slam performance put him under pressure going into this year's US Open, but he stated he was just trying to concentrate on one match at a time. His method appears to be working, as he hasn't lost a set all tournament.
After defeating Jakub Mensik in the third round, he declared, "I'm playing great but I'm not going to get ahead of myself."
Fritz will now face three-time Queens champion and 23-time major champion Djokovic, who will present him with his most difficult challenge of the summer. In seven prior efforts, he had never been able to upset Djokovic, but in the third round of the 2021 Australian Open, he forced him to a fifth set.
In his on-court interview at Louis Armstrong Stadium following his fourth-round triumph, he admitted the match would be challenging but said a win wasn't insurmountable.
"Novak's gotten me a lot, [but] I think one of these times I'm going to get him so I'll keep trying," Fritz told the audience. I have nothing to lose, at least that's what I hope. Because I know that when I play my best tennis, I give myself a chance, I'm going to go out there and have fun.
In the quarterfinals, Frances Tiafoe will have to compete against Ben Shelton, a buddy. Ranking: 10 in TK
Best performance at a major tournament before: semifinals of the 2022 US Open
Tiafoe, a highly anticipated junior player who entered the professional game with lofty hopes, didn't take long to find great success as he advanced to the Australian Open quarterfinals in 2019. It took him some time to return to that level, but he did so at the US Open the previous year.
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He rose to fame in 2022 after defeating Rafael Nadal in the fourth round and losing in a thrilling five-set match against eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz. His never-quit mentality won over many admirers. The US Open is now three wins away from what he promised the crowd he would do: return and win it.
Although he didn't perform as well in the year's first three majors, this year he has won two titles, in Houston and Stuttgart, and has finally made it into the top 10. In New York thus far this year, Tiafoe has only lost one set while dominating every game he has played. In the fourth round, he defeated Rinky Hijikata 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 in about two hours.
Despite their friendship, Tiafoe and Shelton have never shared the stage together. Shelton had been looking forward to the encounter, according to Tiafoe, who was also thrilled about the chance.
On Sunday, Tiafoe stated, "Ben has wanted to play me at the Open for a long time. He will therefore be extremely excited. He's going to show up full of enthusiasm.
"I'll just need to calm him down, try to be the veteran, and win. It will be beneficial. It will have a fantastic vibe and, in my opinion, excellent representation of people of color. A crucial match on Arthur Ashe features two players of color in the quarterfinals. It's a really important time right now. To compete with him excites me quite a bit. I hope it's a fantastic battle.
The US Open audience have been mesmerized by Ben Shelton's strong serve. TK Position: 47
the quarterfinals of the 2023 Australian Open, the previous-best major performance.
Shelton, a University of Florida student and the 2022 NCAA singles champion, is currently on tour for the first time in its entirety. How recently has Shelton been a part of the professional tennis grind on a global scale? Before moving to Australia to begin 2023, he had never even left the United States, and in order to do so, he needed to get his first passport.
His lack of experience as a player and a traveler wasn't a problem, though. Shelton, who was competing in just his second major after losing in the opening round of the 2022 US Open, made it all the way to the quarterfinals before losing to Paul. He hadn't won back-to-back tour events since failing to capitalize on his momentum from Down Under, but he brought his finest effort to Queens.
He has had an incredible run at the US Open, winning four sets over Paul on Sunday and Aslan Karatsev, who reached the semifinals of the 2021 Australian Open, in the third round. He had the fastest serve of the competition during the match against Paul, clocking in at 149 mph, and he replicated the feat in the following game. Both, he said, were caused by "straight adrenaline." He is anticipated to rise to No. 27 after making it to the quarterfinals. He is currently ranked No. 47 and has reached as high as No. 35 this year.
Shelton has now surpassed Roddick in 2002, which occurred before he was born, as the youngest American to make it to the US Open quarterfinals. But despite his advanced age, he is well aware of the criticism leveled at American men's tennis.
Two of us having to compete in the quarterfinals is unfortunate, Shelton added. "Perhaps we could field three in the semifinals. It's a great chance for American tennis, in my opinion. Who will win the next Grand Slam tournament is what you people constantly ask us. Who will carry it out?
"I always respond in the same way: 'American tennis is going in a great direction. I don't know who's going to get a Slam or be the next Andy Roddick, but I know we're all on our own path, doing things our own way, and improving year to year.'" These people exhibit it, I think. I hope to observe a similar trend with myself. I don't really care what happens after this, and it's fantastic to know that at least one American will compete in the semifinals.