For the first time since 2006, there is an American man competing in the U.S. Open semifinals.
Frances Tiafoe replaced Andy Roddick (the last American male to reach the semifinals in New York) as the answer to that trivia question after he defeated Russia’s Andrey Rublev 7-6(3), 7-6(0), 6-4 on Wednesday afternoon.
“I feel so at home on courts like this. This court is unbelievable,” Tiafoe said to the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd after his victory. “[The crowd] gets so far behind me, I want to play, I want to give my best. I always find a way somehow on this court, I always play some great tennis and I have been.”
He then added:
“Let’s enjoy this, we’ve got two more.”
Tiafoe and Rublev, two players who have known each other since the junior ranks, came out slugging early with neither player able to gain any headway on the other’s serve. Through the first two sets, there were no breaks of serve, and Tiafoe was able to outplay Rublev in both tiebreakers, notably winning seven straight points in the second set tiebreaker to seize control of the match.
As Rublev became more frustrated, Tiafoe leaned into his home crowd. His serve continued to be dominant, as it has been throughout the tournament, and he took advantage of a Rublev slip-up on serve to take the 4-3 lead. After consolidating the break, and Rublev held to bring the set to 4-5, Tiafoe served out the match to book his spot in the final four.
“I just love playing in front of packed people. I love to show the world what I can do. Then it makes me feel good when people appreciate how hard you’re trying out there and appreciate good tennis, especially where I came from,” said Tiafoe. “To see how many people I can get behind me means a lot. I just want to go out there and try to give the crowd what they want, and that’s me getting the win.”
In his post-match interview on-court, Tiafoe was asked if he would watch the other Men’s singles quarterfinal between Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner. He joked:
“I’ll sit back and watch them battle and I’m keeping my feet up, so let them battle all night hopefully,” he said. “But two great players, and it’s going to be tough come Friday, but I’m here for all they’ve got.”
His joke turned out to be prescient, as Alcaraz and Sinner played an historic match on Wednesday night. The 19-year-old Alcaraz and 21-year-old Sinner battled until 2:50 a.m., the latest finish in U.S. Open history, with Alcaraz advancing via a 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-7(0), 7-5, 6-3 victory, reaching the first major semifinal of his career.
“I feel great to be in my first semifinal in a Grand Slam,” said Alcaraz. “I feel better reaching semifinal here in the U.S. Open. This tournament is amazing. The crowd is amazing, I would say the best in the world. I mean, the energy I receive on this court at 3 a.m., it was unbelievable. Probably at other tournaments, other places, everybody [would go] to their house to rest. But they [kept] on the court supporting me. It was unbelievable.”
After Sinner took sets two and three in tiebreakers, the 11th seeded Italian had a match point at 5-4 in the fourth set. But Alcaraz saved that point and won the next three games to force the quarterfinal into a deciding fifth set. Sinner would claim the early break advantage in the fifth set, only to see Alcaraz win the match’s finial four games to snatch away the victory.
Carlos Alcaraz has won back-to-back five-set matches deep into the New York night to book his spot in the semifinals. (Photo Credit: Andrew Ong/USTA)
“Honestly, I still don’t know how I did it,” said Alcaraz. “You have to believe in yourself. I believed in my game. It was really difficult to close out the match. I tried to stay calm, but it is difficult in the moment.”
Alcaraz and Tiafoe will square off on Friday night for a spot in the U.S. Open championship.
“It’s going to be really, really tough,” said Alcaraz. “Frances, everybody knows the level of Frances. He has beaten Rafa Nadal, [now] Rublev in three sets. He’s playing unbelievable right now. He loves the crowd. He loves this court. I’m going to have to put out my best.”
Tiafoe won the only previous matchup with Alcaraz, a straight-sets win in Barcelona last year.
The other men’s singles semifinal will see Casper Ruud meet Karen Khachanov.