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Four Americans advance to late rounds in US Open

Jimmy Myers
Four Americans advance to late rounds in US Open
Coco Gauff PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The top story of the U.S. Open has been the coming of age of 19-year-old Coco Gauff, who survived her third three-set match against Caroline Wozniacki to advance to the quarterfinals and defeat 20th-seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-0, 6-2. Gauff, the sixth seed who earlier found herself engulfed in controversy in her first-round match with Germany’s Laura Siegemund, had to tell her coach/consultant Brad Gilbert to “stop talking” to her during her fourth-round match against Wozniacki. Gauff described her outburst towards Gilbert and her entourage as a “stress reaction.”

“I was getting frustrated. It wasn’t really directed at him. It was just that I needed to reset. In that moment, I just didn’t want to hear anything. I just wanted to think about what I was doing,” she said.

After dropping the second set 3-6, Gauff found her concentration and rallied to win six straight games on her way to a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 triumph, propelling her into the quarterfinals. 

Some people close to the scene feel that Coco Gauff is still “too young” and lacks physical and mental strength to go all the way to a U.S. Open Championship, while others pooh-pooh that idea, pointing to the fact that she has won 16 of her past 17 matches.

Meanwhile, Madison Keys, runner-up in the 2017 U.S. Open, stunned third-seeded Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2018. She overwhelmed her American opponent with 21 winners in the match. She will square off with Wimbledon Champion Markéta Vondroušová in the quarterfinal round.

Francis Tiafoe PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA

On the men’s side of the net, Francis Tiafoe and Ben Shelton will battle for a place in the semifinal round. Tiafoe, Shelton and Taylor Fritz became the first Americans since 2005 to advance to the quarterfinal round of U.S. Open men’s competition. The last American triumvirate to reach this level were Andre Agassi, James Blake and Robby Ginepri in 2005. Agassi made it to the final before losing to Roger Federer. The last American man to win the U.S. Open was Andy Roddick in 2003.

Tiafoe, the 10th seed, is favored in his match with 20-year-old Shelton, the 47th-ranked player in the world, who upset fellow American Tommy Paul to reach the quarterfinal round. Tiafoe is trying to reach his second straight U.S. Open semifinal.

Fritz, world ranking number nine, takes on the monumental task of playing 23-time Grand Slam Winner Novak Djokovic, the second seed. All remaining competitors know that Djokovic and top-seeded Carlos Alcaraz are still in the tournament, meaning that the road to a U.S. Open men’s Championship will be equal to climbing two large mountains.

The 25-year-old Fritz suggested he was not fazed to be facing Djokovic, considered by many to be the greatest tennis player of all time.

“I’m not going to overplay.  I am 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.”

Ben Shelton PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

An electric atmosphere is expected to surround the Tiafoe–Shelton match. The two high-energy players are likely to come straight at each other from start to finish.

The pair know each other’s game and are set for the battle.

The 20-year-old Shelton, who will be facing Tiafoe for the first time in his senior career, has the skills to give his opponent problems.

“He’s Bugs Bunny. He’s got crazy energy, endless energy,” Shelton told reporters when asked about the matchup with Tiafoe. “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.”

Tiafoe has dropped only one set in the tournament this far. It will be his experience against the Shelton’s youthful energy.

The real victors in this scenario are American tennis fans, who have waited for close to two decades to see American men on this big stage. 

Ben Shelton, Coco Gauff, Francis Tiafoe, Sports, tennis, U.S. Open