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Ben Shelton Edges Frances Tiafoe To Reach US Open Semifinals

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Twenty-year-old Ben Shelton is still relatively new to the world of professional tennis. Although he has a fantastic serve, don’t assume he can’t perform well in other areas when it counts.

Shelton defeated Frances Tiafoe 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2 at the US Open in a back-and-forth match that featured both players hitting a ton of winners on a muggy night. He did, however, commit 11 double faults in addition to his 14 aces. Shelton also reached his first Grand Slam semifinal.

After Tiafoe missed his next two strokes, Shelton took control of the set.

Shelton took the lead early in the fourth and didn’t look back.

The match was the first significant quarterfinal between two African-American men in the Open era, which dates to 1968, and it took place in Arthur Ashe Stadium from Tuesday evening until after midnight on Wednesday.

Additionally, it marked the first US Open quarterfinal featuring two male players from the host nation since 2005. The nation hadn’t won a Slam title in men’s singles since Andy Roddick triumphed at Flushing Meadows two years before.

The crowd seemed undecided about which athlete to support, encouraging both players at various times during the frequently equal contest.

For a spot in the final, Shelton will compete against Novak Djokovic on Friday. By defeating Taylor Fritz 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, Djokovic advanced to his record-breaking 47th Grand Slam semifinal, breaking a tie with Roger Federer for the most by a man.

When asked if he knew who he would face next, Shelton grinned and replied, “He’s won maybe 23 of these? Similar to that?” — refers to the total number of major titles won by Djokovic. Nothing is better than that, in my opinion.

Wearing sleeveless muscle shirts were the unseeded Shelton and the No. 10 seed Tiafoe, a 25-year-old from Maryland who reached the semifinals at Flushing Meadows last year.

Shelton’s was primarily black with a stripe of fuchsia along the left side, while Tiafoe’s was green with a patchwork of other colors on the front that Coco Gauff called “confetti.”

Although the temperature had dropped from 90 degrees in the afternoon to roughly 82 degrees by night, the humidity had increased to 70%, leaving both of them drenched in sweat the entire time.

The ball was hard-hit by both players. Shelton, however, was the one attracting the crowd’s “oohs” and “aahs” with his lefty forehands that were every bit as strong and reached speeds of over 100 mph as well as his even faster serves. A strong reaction from onlookers was elicited by an ace at 138 mph (he touched 149 mph twice in his triumph over No. 14 Tommy Paul, another American), and Shelton himself let out an excited “Yeah!”

Early blunders were made by Tiafoe, the player with a little bit more experience. A mishandled over-the-shoulder volley that rebounded in front of the net there and a double error here.

Perhaps Tiafoe was simply unaccustomed to playing the role of favorite at this level of a Slam.

Shelton yelled and turned to look at his father, former pro Bryan, who had trained Ben for NCAA team and individual titles at the University of Florida and was now coaching him on tour, when Tiafoe pushed a forehand long to give the match its first break.

The first set was ended by a 127 mph service winner off Shelton’s racket, and after that, he once more fixed his gaze on his box and struck the same position.

Shelton asked for additional cheers from the crowd after winning the third set by leaning over and pointing to his ear, then tapping his chest as he headed to the sidelines. He quickly started breaking to advance in the fourth set. He triumphed in seven of Tiafoe’s service games in total.

When the game was over, Shelton pantomimed talking on the phone while holding it in his hand and then hung up.

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