US Open

Tiafoe Beats 19th Consecutive Lefty, Reaches US Open R4

The 10th seed will next face Australian Hijikata
September 01, 2023
Frances Tiafoe in action Friday at the US Open.
Al Bello/Getty Images
Frances Tiafoe in action Friday at the US Open. By ATP Staff

If you are left-handed, you best hope you don’t have to play Frances Tiafoe.

The 10th-seeded American extended his winning streak against lefties to 19 on Friday when he defeated Adrian Mannarino 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(6) in the US Open third round. The last time Tiafoe lost to a lefty was in 2021, when he fell to Liam Broady in Eastbourne.

A semi-finalist last year at Flushing Meadows, Tiafoe was dialled-in on serve, firing 15 aces, to move past the 22nd seed Mannarino. After dropping the opening set, the 25-year-old found greater consistency from the baseline and attacked Mannarino’s flat backhand to improve to 2-1 in his Lexus ATP Head2Head series with the Frenchman.

“I played a loose game early in the first set and then after that, I thought I was a better player even though I lost the set, had a tonne of break points. I was definitely finding my rhythm, so I just used that as confidence and kept going,” Tiafoe said. “I was super mad that I gave back a break in the fourth [set] and made it real complicated for myself in the end. But I got it done and feels good to be in the fourth round.”

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Tiafoe failed to convert his first six break points of the match before earning an advantage in the sixth game of the second set. Competing this fortnight at a career-high World No. 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Tiafoe displayed impressive shotmaking and deft feel around the net to advance after two hours, 54 minutes. An entertaining fourth set featured four breaks of serve and both players eager to move forward and dictate points.

“He is so annoying to play,” Tiafoe said of Mannarino. “He’s just bunting the ball around, it’s so slow. You look at him like, ‘Man, what is he doing?’ But it is so effective, the ball stays so low. He makes you create and makes you want to feel like you have to overplay. He defends really well, so he is super tough and obviously has a great lefty serve. I’m happy the match is over and I won. He is super annoying to play.” 

Tiafoe, who is 13th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, is the first American since Andre Agassi (2002-05) to reach at least the fourth round in New York for four consecutive years. The three-time tour-level titlist will next have a first-time meeting with Australian Rinky Hijikata.

The Maryland native is the third American to reach the fourth round of their home Slam this week, joining 14th seed Tommy Paul and Ben Shelton. American No. 1 Taylor Fritz and wild card Michael Mmoh are also aiming to book their ticket to the round of 16.

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Mannarino, 35, was aiming to reach the fourth round at a Slam for a fifth time. The World No. 35, who won the ATP 250 event in Newport in July, slipped to 0-21 against Top 10 players at majors.

Wild card Hijikata overcame Chinese star Zhang Zhizhen 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in a thrilling three-hour, 10-minute battle. The 22-year-old struck 54 winners to 36 unforced errors, advancing to his maiden major fourth round after a baseline slugfest in front of a raucous Court 17 crowd.

The 26-year-old Zhang, who was coming off back-to-back five-setters, including an upset against last year's finalist Casper Ruud, needed six set points in the third set to extend the match. In the latter stages, the former University of North Carolina standout Hijikata appeared the fresher of the two as he stayed patient in rallies to pull away from Zhang.

The Sydney native is at a career-high No. 80 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, setting him up for his Top 100 debut following the season's final major.

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