Frances Tiafoe says his All-American US Open quarterfinal against Ben Shelton will be a “monumental moment” for minority players in tennis after booking his place in the last eight on Sunday.
Tiafoe, the son of immigrants from Sierra Leone, set up a showdown with the big-serving Shelton with a confident 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Australia’s Rinky Hijikata.
It leaves 10th seed Tiafoe on course to emulate or better his performance at last year’s US Open, where he lost a five-set semifinal thriller to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz.
First though he must navigate a way past the 20-year-old Shelton, who is coached by his father, African-American former professional Bryan Shelton.
Shelton powered his way into the last eight on Sunday with a four-set defeat of 14th-seeded compatriot Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
“It’s going to be good. It’s going to be a great atmosphere, I think great representation for people of color,” Tiafoe said of his last eight meeting with Shelton.
“Two people of color playing in the quarter-finals ... It’s a pretty monumental moment.
“I’m pretty excited to compete against him. Hopefully it’s a great battle.”
Tiafoe, who eliminated Rafael Nadal during his run to the last four last year, is relishing the challenge of facing Shelton on his favourite arena in tennis -- Flushing Meadows’ imposing Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“He’s just an extremely loud player,” Tiafoe said of Shelton. “Hits the ball big, serves huge, pretty much serving at 150mph today.
“He’s yelling. He’s got a lot of energy, so... He’s great for the sport. It’s cool to see a guy like that play.”
“For me, I enjoy playing lefties. I like playing lefties. I’m going to try to do a good job, make him play a lot of balls, just try to make it a really tough night for him.”
Tiafoe and Shelton were joined in the last eight on Sunday by another American, ninth seed Taylor Fritz.
Tiafoe says win or lose on Tuesday, the result augurs well for men’s tennis in the United States.
“At the end of the day I just want to go out there and win a tennis match,” he said. “The bigger picture things, I think tennis is going to win. More important, an American is going to be in the semis.”
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