Frances Tiafoe advances to first Grand Slam semifinal
By Chris McManes
Frances Tiafoe further cemented his status as one of the world’s top tennis players with his performance in the U.S. Open. The 24-year-old advanced to his first Grand Slam semifinal.
Tiafoe, who learned to play at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, downed Rafael Nadal on Sept. 5 enroute to becoming the first American male since 2006 to make it to the U.S. Open semies.
Tiafoe, ranked 26th in the world at match time, defeated No. 3 Nadal, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. It was his first career win over the 22-time Grand Slam champion. Two days later, he downed Andrey Rublev in straight sets, 7-6, 7-6, 6-3.
Tiafoe’s previous best finish in a Grand Slam was a quarterfinal appearance in the 2019 Australian Open.
“This is wild. This is crazy,” said Tiafoe during a TV interview after his win over Rublev. “Having the biggest win in my life 24 hours ago and coming back and getting another big win … [is] huge growth.”
Carlos Alcaraz ended Tiafoe’s run in the New York borough of Queens with his 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 6-7, 6-3 victory. Alcaraz, 19, who like Nadal is from Spain, entered as the world’s 4th-ranked player.
The fifth and deciding set was tied at 2 games when Alcaraz pulled away. The match lasted four hours and 19 minutes.
In what could be a preview of future Tiafoe-Alcaraz Grand Slams, ESPN broke protocol and interviewed the losing player on court. Tiafoe congratulated Alcaraz, who joined the sold-out 23,000+ fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium in applauding Big Foe.
“Carlos, you’re going to win a lot of Grand Slams,” he said. “You’re a hell of a player, a hell of a person. I’m happy I got to share the court on such a big stage with you.”
After going flat in the second and third sets, Tiafoe was on the brink of elimination with the fourth set tied at 6. He responded by winning the tiebreaker, 7-5. With that, he etched his name in the record book for the most tiebreak victories in a single U.S. Open (eight).
“I gave everything I had the last two weeks,” Tiafoe said. “Honestly, I came here wanting to win the U.S. Open. I feel like I let you guys down. This one hurts, this one really, really hurts.”
Just like Tiafoe, Alcaraz has a big cheering section: “I think I played great against Frances, who was playing unbelievable as well these [past] two weeks.”
For his five victories in New York, Tiafoe made $705,000. The Hyattsville native continues to ascend the world rankings.
“I’m going to come back, and I will win this thing one day.”
Chris McManes (mick-maynz) covers sports for the College Park Here & Now.