Ben Shelton in US Open Semifinals

Ben Shelton in US Open Semifinals
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

Ben Shelton in US Open semifinals defeating Frances Tiafoe.

New York — Ben Shelton, who is only 20 years old, is brand-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.

Shelton’s forehand return victory off an 83 mph second serve kept Tiafoe from going up two sets to one. “Sometimes you’ve got to shut off the brain, close your eyes and just swing,” Shelton said. Some people might suggest clutch, but I’m not sure about that.

Tiafoe’s opinion?

An unbelievable return from way back there, he said. “Go ahead. That is unusual behavior.

After Tiafoe missed his next two strokes, Shelton owned that set. He took a break to start the fourth and didn’t look back.

Shelton, the first American male to reach the US Open semifinals since Michael Chang, who was 20 years old in 1992, remarked that he had to “really dig deep” toward the end of the third set.

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

I like how two persons of race are fighting. Undoubtedly a historic occasion, Tiafoe stated. But once you’re in the game, all you want to do is win.

Shelton, the first American male in the US Open semifinals since Michael Chang, who was 20 years old in 1992, remarked, the end of that third set is when I really had to dig deep.

The contest was the first significant quarterfinal involving two African-American men since the Open’s founding in 1968. It started on Tuesday evening in Arthur Ashe Stadium and ended beyond midnight on Wednesday.

I love seeing two people of color fighting one other. A momentous occasion, without a doubt, Tiafoe stated. But in the end, you just want to win once you’re in the game.

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.

Shelton, an unseeded player, and Maryland native Tiafoe, the No. 10 seed and semifinalist at Flushing Meadows last year, both donned sleeveless muscle shirts. Shelton’s was primarily black with a strip of fuchsia along the left side, while Tiafoe’s was green with a colorful pattern on the front that Coco Gauff called “confetti.”

Although the temperature had dropped from 90 degrees Fahrenheit 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.

Wow, guys, it sure was hot in here tonight. Shelton questioned the audience later. Feeling as though I have nothing left to give tonight. Battle on the inside.

I’m thinking to myself as I’m walking to get my towel in the fourth set, and it’s like, ‘This is the greatest moment on the tennis court of my life, and I’m in a lot of pain physically, Shelton recalled later in his post-match news conference. But I adore it. That was really just today’s story, in my opinion.

Both struck the ball firmly. So difficult. With his lefty forehands that reached speeds of over 100 mph and his even faster serves, Shelton was the one evoking ooohs and aaahs from the audience. A huge reaction from the audience and a “Yeah!” from the animated Shelton himself were prompted by an ace at 138 mph (he touched 149 mph twice in a fourth-round victory against another American, No. 14 Tommy Paul).

Early blunders were made by Tiafoe, the player with a little bit more experience. A misplaced over-the-shoulder volley that bounced far in front of the net there, a double fault here.

Perhaps he was simply unaccustomed to playing the favorite at this stage of a Slam.

Sitting in that seat is different. Ben clearly had a strong desire to triumph. Tiafoe remarked that Ben came out and played with a lot of energy. Obviously, I’ve been the underdog a lot of the time (when I play late in tournaments), so I just go out and play. Like Ben did, you can play, swing, and do anything you wish.

Shelton yelled and turned to look at his father, former pro Bryan, who had trained Ben to 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 the crowd for more noise as he leaned over and pointed to his ear to indicate victory in the third set. He then thumped his chest and proceeded 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 the “call.”

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