Tiafoe can’t continue rare US Open run for an American

NEW YORK (AP) – Francis Tiafoe was living his best life in the U.S. Open semifinals, just as he has throughout that magical run at Flushing Meadows, smiling and thriving, mingling with fans, his opponent, even his opponent. coach.

He sprinted to his changing chair, and the clothes, shoes and racquets surrounding it, after a long moment left. After another, he stared at all four corners of a sold-out Arthur Ashe Stadium, nodding his head through the chaos. He waved his hands for more support — and he got it.

And, apart from a really rough patch in the second and third sets, again at the end, Tiafoe was also playing his best tennis, keeping alive his hopes of becoming the first American to reach the final at Flushing Meadows in 16 years. 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 on Friday night, extending the match for more than another hour, and two more in the fifth, but he couldn’t seal 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 ranked No. 26 from Maryland, wiped away tears and apologized to the spectators who had accompanied him on this crazy ride.

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

Before this tournament, he had only once made it past the fourth round at a major, and lost soon after. This time, he reached the quarter-finals by beating 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, followed with another win and then gave Alcaraz his all for large chunks of the 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 at Tiafoe, as if telling a crowd that included former first lady Michelle Obama to make sure he they wove with praise.

“France,” said Alcaraz, “gave everything to the court.”

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

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

“It represents what we aim for, which is to foster a love of tennis,” said group CEO Ray Benton. “Francis has lived, eaten and breathed tennis since he was 4 years old.”

That’s part of why Tiafoe is confident this won’t be his last chance at this kind of stage. Because he figures the improvements he’s made in diet — “I didn’t go out to dinner once” during the US Open, he noted with pride — and fitness will continue to pay off.

“Craziest two weeks of my life. Things you dream of doing,” Tiafoe said. “It’s gone down a bit.”

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

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