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Ricky’s pick for the U.S. Open quarterfinals: Tiafoe vs. Shelton

There was one American man in the semifinals of the 2022 U.S. Open. There will be at least one in 2023.

And for a second straight year, it could be Frances Tiafoe.

Tiafoe will try to book a return trip to the last four when he faces countryman Ben Shelton on Tuesday night. Shelton is hoping to earn a place in his first Grand Slam semi, but this is already his second quarterfinal appearance (he also advanced this far at the 2023 Australian Open).

The first-ever H2H meeting between these compatriots is almost sure to be a good one, as it features two of the most exciting Americans on tour–and arguably even among the most exciting regardless of nationality.

Tiafoe thrilled the home crowd at the 2022 event with an upset of Rafael Nadal en route to the semifinals. The world No. 10 is back in fine form this fortnight with defeats Learner Tien, Sebastian Ofner, Adrian Mannarino (four sets), and Rinky Hijikata.

Shelton has cemented his status as the tour’s breakout star in 2023. The Atlanta native is into the quarterfinals of a second slam this season following vitories over Pedro Cachin, Dominic Thiem (via second-set retirement), Aslan Karatsev, and Tommy Paul. Shelton slammed a 147 MPH serve against Karatsev and broke his tournament record with a pair of 149 MPH hammers during his win over Paul.

“Ben has wanted to play me at the Open for a long time,” Tiafoe commented. “So he’s going to be super excited. He’s going to come out with a lot of energy. I’m just going to have to tame him down, try to be the vet and get the win. It’s going to be good. It’s going to be a great atmosphere–I think great representation for people of color, right? Two people of color playing in the quarterfinals, huge match on Arthur Ashe. It’s a pretty monumental moment. I’m pretty excited to compete against him. Hopefully it’s a great battle.”

“Frances as a player is electric,” Shelton said of his compatriot. “He’s kind of been like a brother to me since I’ve been out here on tour and a guy who has kind of told me that he believed in me from my first ATP tournament. Just a great guy off the court–but on the court a nightmare to deal with. He does so many things well, one of them being engaging the crowd.

“He’s just one of those guys where it’s must-see TV. You want to watch him play all the time. He kind of has that Carlos Alcaraz effect, especially here in New York. This is his place where he really wants to show up. To be able to play against him in the quarterfinals on Arthur Ashe is something that’s pretty special.”

It could be a special match, too–at the vert least an entertaining one. Don’t be surprised if Shelton has the edge from a serving standpoint in the pressure-pack moments and manages to pull off the upset.

Pick: Shelton in 5

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.