“Two People Of Color Playing…Huge Match On Arthur Ashe” | Frances Tiafoe And Ben Shelton, The Present And Future Of American Men’s Tennis

For the first time in 18 years, three American men have advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. Two of these men, Frances Tiafoe and Ben Shelton, will face each other for a spot in the semifinals. Given their respective ages, talent and early success; they are the present and future of American men’s tennis. Perhaps one of them will break the 20-year streak since an American male last won a Grand Slam Singles title.

Andy Roddick in 2003 at the U.S. Open was the last American man to win a Grand Slam singles title.

Prior to that, you had the days of Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Chang. The total amounts to 27 major titles combined between the quartet, 170 career titles, and more than 300 weeks as world No. 1.

But American men’s tennis hasn’t been able to produce those kind of players and results in more than two decades.

Until maybe now.

Resurgence Of American Men’s Tennis?

Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz (the other American quarterfinalist) are 24 and 25 years old respectively and ranked in the top 10. Shelton is only 20 and ranked 43rd, but will be in the top-30 whether he advances to the semis or not.

Shelton possesses a monster game. He leads the tournament with 62 aces in four matches.

He has also hit the fastest serve in the tournament at 149 mph. He’s incredibly athletic and can rally from the baseline off both wings and can come into net with great hands and anticipation.

Tiafoe made his best major run last year at the U.S. Open, losing to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz in a five-set semifinal battle.

He’s looking poised to repeat that run this year. He’s kept his head in the big moments and feeds off the energy from the crowd, a factor he knows will play into Tuesday’s quarterfinal matchup against Shelton.

“Ben has wanted to play me at the Open for a long time. So he’s going to be super excited. He’s going to come out with a lot of energy,” said Tiafoe after his fourth-round win on Sunday. “I’m just going to have to tame him down, try to be the vet and get the win. It’s going to be good. It’s going to be a great atmosphere, I think great representation for people of color, right? Two people of color playing in the quarterfinals, huge match on Arthur Ashe. It’s a pretty monumental moment. I’m pretty excited to compete against him. Hopefully it’s a great battle.

For years the “Big 3” in men’s tennis, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, had each other to push them to new and unimaginable heights the game has never seen. They made players like Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, the only two players to win multiple Grand Slam titles in the Big 3 era, better.

Future Major Winners

Perhaps Tiafoe, Fritz, Shelton, top-20 player Tommy Paul and top-30 player Christopher Eubanks can do the same for each other and push American men’s tennis forward.

This isn’t about America dominating the Grand Slam contests, but having an American man with a shot to win any of the four majors would be a good thing for the sports popularity at home.

Holding serve will be the key for both Tiafoe and Shelton. That starts by getting first serves in so you can dictate the point.

How each player handles the big moments will be crucial.

No matter who wins, we are guaranteed to have an American man in the semifinals for the second year in a row, first time in two decades.

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