Frances Tiafoe is coming into the U.S. Open with the weight of the next generation of American men’s tennis behind him.
Donning a career-high World No. 10 ranking, Tiafoe will look to build upon his breakout performance at last year’s tournament in Flushing Meadows, where he fell just short of defeating the eventual champion and current World No. 1, Carlos Alcaraz, in five sets in the semifinals.
His first match is set for Monday at 1:15 p.m. against fellow countryman Learner Tien at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“Obviously, there’s a level of expectation,” Tiafoe said Friday at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. “But ultimately I’m just ready to have a good run and play tennis at a high level. This is one of the places where I can actually enjoy playing generally. It’s just fun. It’s super fun out here. Atmosphere is crazy. It will bring a good spark in me, that’s for sure.”
It’s poetic Tiafoe will begin the tournament on the Arthur Ashe court, named after the most decorated black male tennis player in history.
After winning the Stuttgart Open in June, Tiafoe became just the third black American man to be ranked in the Top 10 by the ATP, joining Ashe and James Blake.
The magnitude of the accomplishment is not lost on Tiafoe.
“It holds a lot of weight,” Tiafoe said. “I definitely feels it holds a lot of weight. A lot of kids want to play the game now because of me. I feel that. Definitely a big responsibility. It’s definitely a place you want to be in, a place you want to continue to grow and have people want to play the game. Obviously I think the biggest thing is what happened the last 12 months, adversity in sport, what that means.
“Saw all the people, how the country is reacting to me going for that run. I think it helps because it’s not a normal face you see doing that every day here at the U.S. Open.”
Tiafoe said it definitely feels different coming into the U.S. Open as a Top-10 player, noting that his belief in himself is higher than in past years.
There are only two American men ranked within the Top 10, Tiafoe and the No. 9-seeded Taylor Fritz, as well as just five overall among the 32 seeded players (No. 14 Tommy Paul, No. 28 Christopher Eubanks, No. 31 Sebastian Korda).
Fritz will open the tournament on Monday as well, at Louis Armstrong Stadium against California native Steven Johnson at 1:30 p.m.
The five American male seeds in the U.S. Open bracket represent the most since 2004.
John Isner, who has long carried the weight of being the top American male tennis player, is also competing for one last hurrah before he retires.
The overarching theme of the tournament for these players is how it has been 20 years since the last American player won a Grand Slam title when Andy Roddick captured the 2003 U.S. Open trophy.
“It has been a long time,” said Isner, who will take the Louis Armstrong court on Tuesday against Argentina’s Facundo Diaz Acosta. “It’s the longest stretch this country’s ever had, for sure. We’ll see. I think American men’s tennis is in a very good spot right now. That could keep going because the No. 1 player is pretty good and very young.
“We have a lot of players that can definitely challenge for that Grand Slam. I mean, heck, Frances was a set away from being in the finals last year.”
Credit: Source link