No American male has won a Grand Slam event in two decades, but there still are multiple potential candidates with a chance to capture this year’s U.S. Open title — and to become the country’s first major champion since Andy Roddick hoisted the trophy in Flushing in 2003.
Four U.S. men were in action in Sunday’s fourth round, and at least three of them are through to the quarterfinals after victories by 20-year-old upstart Ben Shelton and 2022 semifinalist Frances Tiafoe set up an All-American quarterfinal match between them Tuesday.
“I think it’s going to be great energy all around. I think tennis is going to win the day, ultimately,” the 10th-seeded Tiafoe said after dispatching Australian wild card Rinky Hijikata in straight sets. “At the end of the day, I just want to go out there and win a tennis match. The bigger picture thing is I think tennis is going to win.
“More important, an American is going to be in the semis.”
Tiafoe and Shelton will be joined in the quarters by Taylor Fritz — the highest-ranked American — after he defeated Swiss qualifier Dominic Stricker late in the afternoon session.
If Fritz, the No. 9 seed, also avoided elimination Sunday evening, it would mark the first time that three American men advanced to the Open quarters since 2005 when Andre Agassi, James Blake and Robby Ginepri all reached the final eight, with Agassi eventually losing in the finals to Roger Federer.
Shelton, the 47th-ranked player in the world, started off the day’s massive slate by advancing to a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the second time this year with an overpowering 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory over No. 14 seed and fellow American Tommy Paul on Ashe.
“It’s just different here being at home, being in front of an American crowd,” Shelton said. “I’ve felt the love all week, playing against foreigners. Played another American today, and we had a great battle.
“The crowd was pretty split, but an unbelievable atmosphere.”
The 20-year-old Floridian blasted two 149-mph aces in one game in the third set, the highest recorded in the tournament. Even Paul stopped to applaud the feat.
“Just straight adrenaline. I think my arm might fall off,” said Shelton, who became the youngest American male to reach the Open quarters since Roddick [also 20] did so in 2002.
This year’s tournament already marked the first time since 2011 that four American men reached the Open’s fourth round. The US-produced quartet that year consisted of Roddick, Mardy Fish, John Isner, and Donald Young.
That year also was the last time two Americans (Isner and Roddick) reached the quarters here.
After Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal dominated the Grand Slam scene for the past two decades, maybe it’s finally time for an American male to break through and win for the first time since Roddick 20 years ago, the lone major victory of his career.
“There’s a bunch of Americans right now that are coming up, so it’s an exciting time,” Paul said. “It’s cool. We grew up all together.”
Shelton and the 26-year-old Paul, a South Jersey native, also had matched up in the quarters at the Australian in January, with Paul prevailing in four sets.
Paul broke early and took a quick 3-0 lead Sunday, but the lefty Shelton won six of seven games to grab the first set, closing it out with an ace.
Paul appeared to turn an ankle at 2-2 in the second set, and Shelton won four straight games to close out the set and take a 2-0 lead.
Paul rebounded in the third set, but Shelton closed him out with a break in the fourth as Paul’s baseline return sailed long.
On the women’s side, Coco Gauff also is through to the quarters while Americans Madison Keys and Jessica Pegula will face each other Monday, and Peyton Stearns also will see fourth-round action against No. 9 Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.
“With Ben and Frances winning, it guarantees a [man] in the semis. With Jess and Maddie playing, it guarantees [another woman] in the quarters,” Gauff said. “It’s just really exciting tennis for America. I hope that the fans are excited and happy with it.”
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