On Tuesday evening, Ben Shelton finished off an epic match against his friend, Frances Tiafoe, to reach the semifinals, the first time two Black men have met in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. After the match, I asked Shelton how he’d felt during it. 

 He said, “I remember walking to get my towel in the fourth set and I’m thinking, ‘This is the greatest moment on a tennis court in my life, and I’m in a lot of pain. But I’m loving it.’ And I think that was the story of tonight.” 

Shelton is only the second Black man to reach the U.S. Open semis since Arthur Ashe in 1972. The other Black man in that conversation is Tiafoe. 

Their Tuesday night battle was more highly anticipated than any match in the tournament so far. The air before and during their battle was electric. Shelton vs. Tiafoe felt like something of a heavyweight title fight. It was two great, hard-hitting power players standing there trying to knock each other out. 

But it was a fascinating clash of styles as Shelton’s bold power game against Tiafoe’s steady resilient style. Shelton’s a gambler who will rip the ball as hard as he can, many times it lands in, but sometimes it flies way out in spectacular fashion. 

 Tiafoe is much more controlled, patient and methodical, trying to avoid mistakes. This match was also a clash of people at different places in their lives. Tiafoe is the veteran who’s No. 10 in the world while Shelton is the newcomer in his first year on the tour.   

Shelton is the hot new phenom of tennis. He’s just 20 and he’s already a star because he’s got the energy of a joyful boy yet the game of a strong man. He crushes his serve and forehand, making the ball rocket off his racquet. Seeing Shelton unleash his most powerful strokes is an amazing sight.  

Throughout the match, every time he went to serve, there was a spark in the crowd. You could hear people thinking, OK this is going to be the time when he unleashes a bomb. He’s gonna crank that serve up to 140 mph or 145 mph or maybe even faster, and I’ll get to tell everyone that I was there to witness the fastest serve ever.  

It’s like when everyone is hoping that Steph Curry unleashes a super long three or when Barry Bonds rakes another home run. When Shelton goes to serve, the whole stadium is on edge. Everyone except, of course, for Tiafoe. 

Tiafoe is strong and smart and very tough to beat. He was steady and valiant throughout the match but withered under the attack of Shelton’s power shots. 


SOURCE: thegrio.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *