American Frances Tiafoe overcame crafty veteran Adrian Mannarino 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(6) in front of a raucous crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium on Friday to reach the U.S. Open fourth round.
Tiafoe managed to convert just five of 15 break points and said the 35-year-old Frenchman’s unpredictable style gave him fits in the nearly three-hour affair.
“He’s so annoying to play,” Tiafoe said to laughs during an on-court interview. “He’s just bunting the ball around, it’s so slow. You look at him and you’re like, man, what’s he doing?
“But it’s so effective, the ball stays so low. He makes you create, he makes you feel like you want to overplay. He defends really well ... I’m happy the match is over and I won.”
Tiafoe, who electrified the tournament with his run to the semi-finals last year, shrugged off his lacklustre results during the summer hard court swing leading up to the major.
“The summer is irrelevant, it’s all about this tournament,” said the 10th seed.
“I’ve always watched this tournament as a kid, I’ve always wanted to be out here and compete on the biggest stages and here is our biggest stadium,” he said.
Last year Tiafoe became the first Black American man to reach the semis at Flushing Meadows since Arthur Ashe in 1972 and said he is determined to leave his mark on the game too.
“There’s so much history here, Arthur Ashe Stadium, what a legend,” he said. “I just want my name in the same sentence as his. I think that’s why I play some of my best tennis here.”
Tiafoe could be on a quarter-final collision course with compatriot Tommy Paul after the 14th seed overcame a third set hiccup to dispatch Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-1, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 and reach the fourth round for his first time.
Paul was loudly urged on by a young superfan during his epic comeback from a two-set deficit in the second round on Wednesday night, and Eddy from Brooklyn returned again to lend his vocal support on Friday.
“I think we got him tickets to our box but he ended up getting better tickets right on the side of the court,” Paul told reporters.
“I was definitely hearing him and it was fun. He got louder after I lost the third, which was cool. I went and talked to him a little bit after.
“It’s really cool to have him there, I’m hoping he becomes famous.”
Next up for Paul is 20-year-old American Ben Shelton after the 20-year-old ran away with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 win over Aslan Karatsev earlier on Friday.
Top-ranked American Taylor Fritz has gone somewhat under the radar at the tournament, where he has yet to drop serve, dominating 18-year-old Czech qualifier Jakub Mensik 6-1 6-2 6-0 under the lights to reach the second week for the first time.
Fritz, seeded ninth, will look to stop another qualifier, Dominic Stricker of Switzerland, in the Round of 16.
American men are looking to snap a 20-year major drought at this year’s U.S. Open.
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