Tiafoe can’t continue rare run at US Open for American man

Sep 9, 2022, 10:45 AM | Updated: 10:51 pm
Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, reacts after losing to Carlos Alcaraz, of Spain, in the semif...

Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, reacts after losing to Carlos Alcaraz, of Spain, in the semifinals of the U.S. Open tennis championships, Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

NEW YORK (AP) — Frances Tiafoe was living his best life in his U.S. Open semifinal, just as he did throughout this magical run at Flushing Meadows, smiling and thriving, yukking it up with the fans, with his opponent, even with his opponent’s coach.

He sprinted to his changeover chair, and the mess of clothes and shoes and rackets that surrounded it, after one big point went his way. After another, he stared at all four corners of a soldout Arthur Ashe Stadium, nodding amid the mayhem. He waved his arms to ask for more support — and got it.

And, other than a real rough patch in the second and third sets, and again at the end, Tiafoe was playing his best tennis, too, keeping alive his hopes of becoming the first American man to reach the final at Flushing Meadows in 16 years and, perhaps, the first to win any Grand Slam title in 19 years. Tiafoe managed to save a match point in the fourth set Friday night, extending the contest for more than another hour, and another two in the fifth, yet could not finish the deal, losing to No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3.

When it was over, when he ran out of comebacks, Tiafoe, a 24-year-old from Maryland who is ranked 26th, wiped away tears and apologized to the spectators who joined him for this rollicking ride.

“I wanted to be here on Sunday, holding the cup. I had it in my head,” Tiafoe said, adding about the fans: “I know they’re proud of what I did. … I wanted this one to end a little differently, that’s all.”

Before this tournament, he only once had been past the fourth round at a major, and lost immediately after that. This time, he got to the quarterfinals by beating 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, followed that up with another victory, and then gave Alcaraz all he could handle for big chunks of their 4-hour, 19-minute thriller that ended slightly before midnight.

“I just proved that, honestly, I mean, I can play with the best, obviously,” Tiafoe said, “and I’m capable of winning Grand Slams.”

When it was over, Tiafoe and Alcaraz hugged. And then Alcaraz — a 19-year-old from Spain who will face Casper Ruud, a 23-year-old from Norway, in the final — pointed to Tiafoe, as if telling a crowd that included former first lady Michelle Obama, to make sure they showered him with praise.

“Frances,” Alcaraz said, “gave everything on court.”

Tiafoe’s “Cinderella story,” as he put it, might be well known, but bears repeating: His parents emigrated to the United States from Sierra Leone during its civil war in the 1990s; his mother worked two jobs, including as a nurse, and his father helped build the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland. From an early age, Frances and his twin brother, Franklin, would spend a lot of time at the facility, sometimes sleeping there, while Dad was a maintenance worker there.

The JTCC held a watch party at a restaurant near its campus on Friday night.

“He represents what we’re all about, which is to foster a love of tennis,” said the group’s CEO, Ray Benton. “Frances lives, eats and breathes tennis, since he was 4 years old.”

Which is part of why Tiafoe is convinced this will not be his last chance on this sort of stage. Why he figures the improvements he’s made in diet — “I didn’t go out to dinner one time” during the U.S. Open, he noted proudly — and fitness will continue to pay off.

“Craziest two weeks of my life. Stuff you dream about doing,” Tiafoe said. “Fell a little short.”

___

More AP coverage of U.S. Open tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/us-open-tennis-championships and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Washington Spirit players celebrate after defeating Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL Championsh...
Associated Press

US players ‘horrified’ by report of abuse in women’s soccer

As the United States was preparing for its game Friday against England at Wembley Stadium, players were trying to process an investigation that found emotional abuse and sexual misconduct are systemic in women’s soccer. “We are horrified and heartbroken and frustrated and exhausted and really, really angry,” said defender Becky Sauerbrunn. Former acting U.S. Attorney […]
16 hours ago
Fans eat and watch the big screen before the NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in T...
Associated Press

Bowman and Ware to miss Charlotte race with injuries

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Alex Bowman and Cody Shane Ware will miss this weekend’s NASCAR race because of injuries suffered driving the new Next Gen car. Bowman will miss a second consecutive race with a concussion. Ware said he’s skipping Sunday’s race on The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway because his broken right foot can’t […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Viewers flock to Weather Channel for Hurricane Ian coverage

NEW YORK (AP) — The Weather Channel reached its biggest audience in five years last week when Hurricane Ian made its destructive landfall in western Florida. The average audience of 3.4 million people last Wednesday was more than any other day for the network since Hurricane Harvey deluged Texas with record amounts of rainfall in […]
16 hours ago
Grounds crew members place a tarp over the infield at Oriole Park at Camden Yards during a rain del...
Associated Press

Blue Jays-Orioles game rained out, doubleheader on Wednesday

BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays were rained out Tuesday night and are scheduled to play a doubleheader Wednesday to end the regular season. There is little significance to these last two games. The Blue Jays have clinched the top wild card in the American League, and the Orioles are assured […]
16 hours ago
New York Yankees' Aaron Judge ducks down while leading off from third base during eighth inning in ...
Associated Press

Judge shows frustration, still 61 homers with 2 games left

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Aaron Judge slammed his helmet in a rare show of frustration. The New York Yankees slugger is running out of time to hit his 62nd homer. Judge’s homerless streak extended to five games since matching Roger Maris’ 61 for the American League record, with No. 99 not coming close to clearing […]
16 hours ago
FILE - Portland Thorns fans hold signs during the first half of the team's NWSL soccer match agains...
Associated Press

Thorns owner Paulson steps away after damning abuse report

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson has removed himself from a decision-making role with the National Women’s Soccer League club until the findings are released from an ongoing investigation into numerous scandals around the league. Paulson, who is also the owner of Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers, announced his decision in a […]
16 hours ago
Tiafoe can’t continue rare run at US Open for American man