For the first time since 2005, three Americans progressed to the quarterfinals of the men’s draw. It also meant at least one US star was guaranteed to be in the semifinals.
Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe and Ben Shelton were the trio still harboring dreams of winning a home grand slam. Not since Andy Roddick in 2003 has an American man won the US Open.
Shelton will be the American advancing to the semis, as he defeated Tiafoe 6-2 3-6 7-6(7) 6-2 early Wednesday. Fritz, meanwhile, lost his quarterfinal match earlier in the day to 23-time grand slam winner Novak Djokovic, 6-1 6-4 6-4.
Andre Agassi, James Blake and Robby Ginepri were the previous American triumvirate to reach the last eight of the men’s competition. On that occasion, 18 years ago, Agassi made it to the final before being beaten by Roger Federer.
Given Djokovic and Spanish superstar Carlos Alcaraz are both still in the draw, the likelihood of a home winner this year remains small – albeit not impossible.
World No. 9 Fritz said morale in the US group was high and that watching others be successful helped motivate his own performance.
“I’ve said it for a long time, whenever one of us does something, achieves something, it makes everyone else feel like they can do it, too,” he said, per the US Open website.
Fritz, who has cemented himself inside the Top 10 over the last year, certainly had the hardest opponent on Tuesday.
In Djokovic, he faced arguably the greatest tennis player of all-time, but the 25-year-old American had said he would not be overwhelmed by the occasion.
“I’m not going to overplay. I’m not going to do anything different because I’m playing Novak,” he told reporters after reaching the quarterfinal.
“I’m going to play my game, play within myself and trust that if I play well, it’s enough.”
‘He’s Bugs Bunny’
Both Taifoe and Shelton faced a very different type of challenge.
The pair know each other well. Bidding to make a second consecutive US Open semifinal, world No. 10 Tiafoe was the likely favorite for the clash, having dropped just one set at the tournament before Tuesday night.
His 20-year-old opponent, though, certainly had the skills to cause Tiafoe problems. The youngster has a booming serve and an impressive forehand.
“It’s a big match. He’s Bugs Bunny. He’s got crazy energy, endless energy,” Tiafoe told reporters about facing Shelton.
“He’s going to come after me, and I’m going to come after him. It’s going to be a great battle, we’re going to compete really hard.”
Shelton upset fellow American Tommy Paul to reach his first US Open quarterfinal. The result at the time matched his best run at a grand slam, having reached the same stage at the Australian Open earlier this year.
It’s further evidence of his impressive rise from outside the Top 100 last year to his current position as world No. 47.
“I really learned how to be mentally tough,” Shelton said before the Tiafoe match, explaining how he’s improved since the Australian Open.
“When I was playing in Australia after a long week, I was looking at my box, saying, ‘My legs are dead. I’m tired. I can’t go anymore.’
“I realized how important it is for me to believe in myself, believe that I can go all the way, the full distance, emotionally and physically, and now I have that belief here.”
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