Ben Shelton got past Frances Tiafoe in an All-American battle with a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 result on Tuesday night in the 2023 US Open quarterfinals, earning a ticket to his first ever Grand Slam semifinal. The 20-year-old Shelton is now the youngest American to reach the last four of the US Open since Michael Chang in 1992.
The match ended at around 12:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, but loud cheers filled Arthur Ashe Stadium as Shelton celebrated.
“I feel like I left it all out here tonight. Emotional battle,” Shelton said in his post-match interview. “Thanks to all of you for staying so late. Hell of an atmosphere, and thanks for pushing me over the line.”
Shelton took the first set, but No. 10 seed Tiafoe, who reached the semifinals last year, wasn’t going down without a fight. He won the second set as the third needed a tiebreak to decide who would take the lead. Tiafoe entered the night 9-0 in tiebreaks during this tournament, but Shelton was able to snap that streak and carry the momentum into the last set.
“Sometimes you gotta shut off the brain, close your eyes, and just swing,” Shelton said. “Maybe it was a little bit of that down set point, but it ended up working out. Some may say clutch, but I don’t know about all that.”
The battle at Flushing Meadows was just the second time two black Americans played against each other in the US Open and the first time in the quarterfinals.
Shelton hasn’t had the most consistent season, but he entered Tuesday’s match as the youngest American man to advance to the quarterfinals since Andy Roddick in 2002. No American man has won a Grand Slam title since Roddick in the 2003 US Open, and none have reached a title match since 2009.
The 2022 NCAA singles champion turned pro just before last year’s US Open. He was ranked No. 802 two years ago and No. 165 last year. Next week, he will be ranked at least No. 19 in the world.
Shelton has a chance to end the drought for US men, but first, he would have to get past world No. 2 Novak Djokovic in the semifinal round.
He was asked about facing Djokovic during his on-court interview, and Shelton asked the crowd to keep supporting him.
“Yeah, he has won 23 of these, something like that?” he said. “It doesn’t get much better than that. It’s been tough. The last two matches, I’ve been playing Americans, but hopefully, you guys bring it for me two nights from now.”