The US Open’s underdogs: American male athletes determined to defy expectations | CNN

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CNN  — 

For a while now, male players from the United States have been striving to join the top ranks of professional tennis. And at this year’s US Open, it seems that their efforts have paid off.

In a rare occurrence, three American players advanced to the quarterfinals of the men’s tournament for the first time since 2005. This also ensured that at least one American athlete would be competing in the semifinals.

Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, and Ben Shelton were the remaining three players with hopes of winning a grand slam tournament on their home turf. The last time an American male player won the US Open was in 2003 with Andy Roddick.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 03: Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia reacts against Iga Swiatek of Poland during their Women's Singles Fourth Round match on Day Seven of the 2023 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 03, 2023 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

At the 2023 US Open in New York City, defending champion Iga Świątek from Poland was taken aback by Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko during their Women’s Singles Fourth Round match on Day Seven at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The match took place on September 03, 2023 in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, with Sarah Stier capturing the moment in a photo for Getty Images.

Shelton was the American who secured a spot in the semi-finals by beating Tiafoe 6-2 3-6 7-6(7) 6-2 on Wednesday. On the same day, Fritz was defeated in his quarterfinal match against 23-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic, with a score of 6-1 6-4 6-4.

18 years ago, Andre Agassi, James Blake, and Robby Ginepri formed the American triumvirate that reached the quarterfinals of the men’s competition. Agassi went on to the final but was defeated by Roger Federer.

As Djokovic and Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz are both still competing, the chances of a local champion this year are slim, but not entirely impossible.

Fritz, who is ranked 9th in the world, stated that the morale within the US team was positive. He also mentioned that observing others achieve success served as a motivation for his own performance.

According to the US Open website, he stated that when one person in our group succeeds or accomplishes something, it inspires others to believe that they can do it as well. I have been saying this for a while now.

Tiafoe was bidding to make his second straight US Open semifinal.

Fritz, who has solidified his position in the Top 10 in the past year, faced a particularly challenging opponent on Tuesday.

He encountered Djokovic, who is widely considered to be one of the best tennis players ever. However, the 25-year-old American had previously stated that he would not let the magnitude of the situation affect him.

“I will not exaggerate my performance. I will not make any changes just because I am playing against Novak,” he stated to the media after advancing to the quarterfinals.

“I will focus on my game and trust that my best effort will be sufficient.”

“He is Bugs Bunny.”

Taifoe and Shelton were presented with unique challenges.

The two are familiar with each other. Attempting to reach the US Open semifinals for the second year in a row, Tiafoe, who is currently ranked 10th in the world, was expected to be the favored player in the match as he had only lost one set in the tournament before Tuesday night.

His rival, who was 20 years old, possessed the abilities to challenge Tiafoe. The youth had a powerful serve and a remarkable forehand.

Tiafoe spoke to reporters about his upcoming match against Shelton, describing it as a significant event. He compared Shelton to Bugs Bunny, saying that he has boundless and lively energy.

“He plans to pursue me, and I plan to pursue him. Our upcoming battle will be intense as we fiercely compete.”

Shelton is the youngest of the trio of US stars.

Shelton surprised his fellow American Tommy Paul to advance to the quarterfinals of the US Open for the first time. This achievement equaled his previous best performance at a major tournament, as he had also reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open earlier this year.

This provides additional proof of his remarkable climb from being ranked outside of the Top 100 last year to his current ranking as the 47th best player in the world.

Shelton stated before the Tiafoe match that he has gained mental toughness and has made improvements since the Australian Open.

“While I was competing in Australia following a tiring week, I gazed at my box and thought, ‘My legs are exhausted. I am fatigued and can no longer continue.'”

“I have come to understand the significance of having faith in myself, trusting that I am capable of reaching my full potential both mentally and physically. And now, I possess that very belief within me.”


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