Terrific Tiafoe Takes Down Rublev For US Open SF Spot
Frances Tiafoe delivered a stunning all-around display to take down ninth seed Andrey Rublev on Wednesday at the US Open, where a combination of brutal groundstrokes, impeccable serving and delicate net play earned the American a 7-6(3), 7-6(0), 6-4 quarter-final victory.
Seeking to back up his thrilling four-set win against Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, Tiafoe expertly channelled the support of an ecstatic home crowd under a closed Arthur Ashe Stadium roof in New York. The American’s confidence was most evident when he reeled off seven unanswered points in a flawless second-set tie-break, but Tiafoe’s level rarely dropped as he closed out a two-hour, 35-minute triumph to charge to his maiden Grand Slam semi-final in style in New York.
“This is wild. This is crazy,” said Tiafoe in his on-court interview. “I had the biggest win of my life 24 hours ago and coming out and getting another big win… Andrey’s a hell of a player, and to back it up, that’s huge. It’s tough to turn the page, but I did and now I’m in the semis.
“I feel so at home on courts like this. This court is unbelievable. [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. Let’s enjoy this, we’ve got two more.”
Tiafoe took control of his third tour-level meeting with Rublev by raising his game in a pair of tie-breaks to claim an opening two sets in which he did not carve out a break point opportunity. The American’s strategy of moving forward to pressure the ninth seed on the baseline was particularly effective, and he ended the match having won 76 per cent (31/41) of points at the net.
Tiafoe is the first American man to reach the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows since 2006, when Andy Roddick advanced to the championship match. A former World No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Roddick was in the stands cheering on his countryman as Tiafoe advanced to play the winner of Wednesday night’s heavyweight #NextGenATP battle between Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner.
“I’ll sit back and watch them battle and I’m keeping my feet up, so let them battle all night hopefully,” joked Tiafoe when asked if he would watch Alcaraz and Sinner's quarter-final clash. “But [they are] two great players, and it’s going to be tough come Friday, but I’m here for all they’ve got.”
Rublev’s defeat marks another quarter-final disappointment for the 24-year-old, who is now 0-6 in last-eight matches at Grand Slams. His latest run in New York nonetheless lifts him back into the Top 10 of the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, with Rublev currently rising two spots to No. 9 as a result of his exploits this fortnight.
Although Tiafoe was visibly keen to stay on the front foot during rallies, it was Rublev who had all three of the break point chances in the first set. The American stayed aggressive behind his forehand to save break point at 5-6, 30/40, however, and he cruised to the first set-tie break despite letting slip his first set point at 6/2 by leaving a Rublev lob he mistakenly thought was heading out.
Four holds of serve to love in the first five games set the tone for a second set which featured no break points as both players were incisive with their serving. It set the scene for Tiafoe’s outstanding seven-point blitz. The 22nd seed was imperious to move into a two-sets-to-one lead, with highlights including a delicate drop volley for 6/0 and a rasping backhand return winner to convert set point.
Despite some nerves beginning to show after he moved within two games of victory in the third set, Tiafoe rallied from 30/40 to hold for 5-3 and held convincingly to love in his next service game to complete the win. The result moves Tiafoe into a 2-1 lead in his ATP Head2Head series with Rublev.