NEW YORK — Frances Tiafoe was the first American to reach the semifinals of the US Open by victory since 2006 Andrei Rublev 7-6(3), 7-6(0), 6-4 behind supporting a boisterous partisan crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday.
Tiafoe, 24, who grew up in Maryland, put on a performance as strong, if not stronger, than the one he used to eliminate the 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in the fourth round.
“Man, man, that’s wild. That’s crazy. I had the biggest win of my life 24 hours ago. … That’s huge growth. It’s hard to turn the page,” said Tiafoe, who is based in Flushing Meadows Place 22 is set.
Then Tiafoe looked ahead and made sure everyone knows that this big milestone isn’t enough to satisfy them, adding: “Let’s enjoy this. We’ve got two more boys. We have two left.”
Andy Roddick was the last US man to reach the semifinals in New York when he lost to Roger Federer in the title fight 16 years ago. Roddick was also the last man from the country to win a Grand Slam singles championship with the 2003 US Open.
Competing at this year’s US Open, American men have completed 74 straight majors since Roddick won in 2003, which is the longest major title drought the US men have had in tennis history.
Tiafoe is also now only the second active American to reach and join a major semifinal John Isner (Wimbledon 2018).
Tiafoe played aggressive attacking tennis, using 18 aces along with powerful volleying to edge out No.9 Rublev, a Russian who fell to 0-6 in the grand quarterfinals. Tiafoe won 31 of 41 points when he went to the net; Rublev only ventured forward 11 times.
Raindrops started falling just before the start of the Tiafoe vs. Rublev game, so they stood around waiting for the retractable roof to close. This resulted in both a cool, wind-free environment and a noisier environment, with fan applause and shouts echoing in an indoor arena—circumstances that favored Tiafoe. The match featured a dominant serve from both – the only break in service came after more than two hours when Tiafoe took a 4-3 lead in the decider, then mostly stood motionless on the court and the reaction from the stadium enjoyed – and the most important moments were the two tie-breaks.
Tiafoe is now 6-0 in the tiebreak at this US Open. He shone against Rublev at this stage, playing in front of the crowd and enjoying the cheers that reflected the way he was ramping up his performance.
Rublev actually had the first chance to slam forward, with a set at 6-5 in the first, but Tiafoe erased it with a risky forehand to a corner that entailed a netted reply. A few minutes later it was Tiafoe who took the set, sealed it with a 130-mile ace and then stalked to the change, nodding and pointing his racquet for more noise. The crowd obliged, including Tiafoe’s sidekick, Washington Wizards All-Star Guard Bradley Beal, from his front row seat.
A similar scene played out in the second tiebreak after a drop volley from Tiafoe forced an error from Rublev to make it 6-0. As Tiafoe scored a backhand winner to seal a two-set lead, he sprinted to the sidelines, taking a seat next to his messy collection of towels, shirts and socks that were spread out on the floor — call it the “College Dorm Room.” Chic” — and shook his fist in delirium to a standing ovation.
Tiafoe is definitely a showman. He demonstrated that against Nadal, then again against Rublev, who never tried to hide his anger at the way things were going. Rublev hit his leg with his racquet or hit his strings. He kept gesturing and yelling at his guest box, where only four of the 15 seats were occupied, in quite a contrast to Tiafoe’s packed department.
“I feel so at home in places like this,” Tiafoe told the crowd. “You guys get behind me, I want to do my best.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.