American Ben Shelton upset one seeded countryman and set up a quarterfinal showdown with another to open Day 7 of the men’s draw at the U.S. Open on Sunday in New York.
Shelton outlasted No. 14 seed Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the Round of 16. He advanced to face No. 10 Frances Tiafoe, who took care of Australian wild card Rinky Hijikata 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.
At 20 years old, Shelton is the youngest American quarterfinalist at Flushing Meadows since Andy Roddick in 2002. Roddick is also the last American man to win a Grand Slam title (2003 U.S. Open), representing a drought both Shelton and Tiafoe are vying to end.
“Being at home here in front of an American crowd, I have felt the love all week. I played another American today and we had a great battle,” Shelton said. “It is hard to believe I am playing on Arthur Ashe (Stadium) right now with the stands completely full.”
Shelton had a 16-6 advantage in aces and saved 11 of 14 break points against Paul. Shelton also converted six of eight opportunities to break Paul’s serve.
It was revenge for Shelton after Paul defeated him in the Australian Open quarterfinal in January.
“I learned to be mentally tough,” Shelton said. “When I was playing in Australia after a long week I was looking at my box saying ‘My legs are dead, I am tired, I can’t go anymore.’ I realized how important it is to believe in myself. That I can go the full way emotionally and physically and now I have that belief here.”
Tiafoe took care of Hijikata in two hours flat, earning a whopping 15-0 advantage in aces along the way.
He said the lack of success by American men on the global tennis scene was a “definitely unspoken” motivator for the new crop of talent.
“But I mean, it’s definitely a great thing we have, and I hope we just keep going for many years,” Tiafoe said. “We’re young, we’re stepping into (our) prime, so let’s keep going.”
In the two late matches Sunday, No. 9 seed Taylor Fritz will take on Dominic Stricker of Switzerland and No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia will face Croatian qualifier Borna Gojo.
—Field Level Media