Frances Tiafoe completes rare feat for Americans at US Open


NEW YORK – If Frances Tiafoe does not bow before a Heartbreaking, losing five sets In the fourth round at Wimbledon this summer, perhaps because he had a sense of what was coming.

The 24-year-old from Hyatsville took that loss to David Goffin and refused to let any bump in the road become anything else. On Saturday at the US Open, he continued his climb up steadily and beat 14th seed Diego Schwartzman with a 7-6 (9-7), 6-4, 6-4 victory that sent him into the fourth round.

This, on the heels of reaching the world’s 24th highest last month (although he currently ranks 26th).

This, making him the first American man to reach the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for three consecutive years since Mardi Fish from 2010 to 2012.

“There is a lot of work to be done,” Tiafoe said in court afterwards. “We have another week.”

Tiafoe was waiting for his next opponent – either 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal or Richard Gasquet, who played later on Saturday.

Tiafoe will struggle for his second appearance in a major quarter-final after reaching that stage at the 2019 Australian Open, where he lost to Nadal.

The situation seems important to Tiafoe these days. He’s approaching this year’s main final challenge with an open mind after watching 10th seed Taylor Fritz, the top-ranked American, and fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas knock out the opening round.

However, this openness comes with a healthy reluctance to move forward on oneself.

“There’s just a change of guard just generally,” he said this week. “Who is that guy going to be, who is going to be that consistent guy who hasn’t really formed yet? Everyone is at the same level honestly. Everyone can be beaten at the same time. Even the top players.

“It’s cool. I think tennis needs that, look at some new faces, what do you have. But it’s interesting. I mean, I’m not there yet. You asked me. I’m still that dark horse that can do something special. I kind of like it because I I’m not at the forefront of that cause, you know, let these guys handle the pressure. I’m kind of Court 17, get some great wins.”

Blaming the US Tennis Association for putting Tiafoe in the Coliseum instead of the more intimate 17th Court, then, on Saturday. His win turned out to be more discipline than scratching as the afternoon unfolded.

It still contained the usual Tiafoe items.

The first set was a 73-minute carnival of long rallies, and you can believe the shots Tiafoe quickly fell to 2-5, then repelled five set points, including three in the tiebreak. The crowd in the amphitheater was delighted with that, even with a large number of Schwartzman supporters among them.

Then Tiafoe did what any good showman would do after preparing his audience. Raise his power.

Tiafoe came out in the second set by jumping on Schwartzman’s serve and finally took the reins by earning a break point at 4-4, at which point the Argentine settled where he is most: on the baseline.

Tiafoe turned the breaking point with 22 rallying rounds that brought him home, but he wasn’t done yet. Having exaggeratedly pulled his feet to a group of men sitting on the field, he slapped them five, sat on the divider, then threw his hands and fell into the crowd with drama.

It was amazing that he stood up again — that point made him 20-7 in groupings of nine or more shots.

The closing of the last two groups was evident after that. Tiafoe’s tired legs carried him to a double break point at 4-4 again on the third, which he converted by lunging into the net. In the final, Schwartzman convinced with two backhand errors and closed the matter with consecutive aces, the second clocking 134 mph.

The next time he plays, he probably won’t be in the stands, let alone Court 17. He might be at Arthur Ashe Stadium, facing a champion and all the stress that comes with it.

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