American Frances Tiafoe faces uphill climb at US Open semifinals

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Frances Tiafoe reacts after winning a tie breaker against Andrey Rublev during the quarterfinals of the US Open.
Frances Tiafoe reacts after winning a tie breaker against Andrey Rublev during the quarterfinals of the US Open.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Frances Tiafoe’s magical run to the US Open semifinals will face yet another daunting test on Friday night, as he will take on Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, the highest ranking player left in the men’s tournament. 

Tiafoe has completely upended expectations so far in Flushing, as he took down legendary pro Rafael Nadal in the round of 16, and bested ninth-ranked Andrey Rublev of Russia in the quarterfinals — but, with two more matches remaining, he still has his work cut out for him. 

The son of immigrants fleeing a civil war in Sierra Leone, Tiafoe learned the game while his father worked as a groundskeeper at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in Maryland, and the future pro spent his time on the court developing his game. He also spent time with his father and twin brother living at the tennis center, in an office space with just two beds, where the family resided during their early years in the United States. 

He eventually linked up with a trainer, Misha Kouznetsov, who helped pay Tiafoe’s way into junior tennis tournaments, and the youngster quickly proved that his talents made tennis more than a simple hobby.

“I’m a son of immigrants, both parents grew up in Sierra Leone, born and raised in Sierra Leone. Came to the States early ’90s, late ’80s, around there,” he said after beating Nadal.

Now, at just 24-years-old, Tiafoe has advanced further in Grand Slam play than he ever has before, and will take on the vaunted Spaniard under the bright lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium for a chance to punch his ticket to the US Open final.

He defeated Nadal 6–4, 4–6, 6–4, 6–3 on Monday, and then followed up that performance by ousting Rublev in straight sets on Wednesday afternoon 7–6, 7–6, 6–4. His evenly matched contest with Rublev saw just one break throughout the match, when Tiafoe went up 5–3 in the final set against his Russian opponent. 

As the last remaining man from the United States in the men’s tournament, Tiafoe is now the first Black American man to reach a US Open semifinal since Arthur Ashe in 1972, and the first American of any race to appear in that round since Andy Roddick in 2006. 

Now, he will face Alcaraz, who won a grueling match against Italian-born Jannik Sinner on Wednesday night in a five-setter that ended well after midnight. 

Alcaraz has lost just 4 sets in 5 matches thus far at the US Open, and heads into the semi final match as the favorite to advance. 

The Spaniard currently boasts -194 odds to win the match (meaning gamblers would win $0.52 for every $1 wagered) on FanDuel Sportsbook, while Tiafoe sits at +160 odds ($1.60 for every $1). The American is also +410 to win the entire tournament ($4.10 for every $1 bet), putting him as the the third-most likely winner, behind Alcaraz (-120) and Norwegian Casper Ruud (+300), and just ahead of Russia’s Karen Khachanov (+650). 

For more coverage of Frances Tiafoe and the US Open, head to amNY.com.