REUTERS/Mike Segar

NEW YORK: An emotional Francis Tiafoe vows to one day lift the US Open trophy after his Cinderella story ended prematurely with a semifinal loss to Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz on Friday. did.

Tiafoe’s compelling backstory and sensational run in New York made him the talk of the tournament, including a fourth upset against 23-time Grand Slam champion Rafa Nadal.

“The last two weeks I gave it my all,” he said to a sold-out crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I came here wanting to win the US Open and I feel like I let you all down. This really, really hurts. Carlos is too good.

“I will come back and win this thing one day.”

Despite his disappointment, Tiafoe said he left Flushing Meadows with new confidence.

“I proved that I can play with the best players and that I can win a Grand Slam,” he told reporters.

The 24-year-old has carried a heavy weight of expectations throughout his career, winning his only ATP title with Delray in early 2018 and surprising the Australian Open field to reach the quarterfinals about a year later.

He struggled for a while after that, but in 2020 he made it to the fourth round of the US Open, the most ever at a Grand Slam this year.

“Throughout my career, I was pretty sporadic.

“I have always stood up for myself against the best players in the world.

“We are ready to take the next step.”

It was also rewarding to be a student of the game in his youth when he and his twin brother worked part-time at a tennis center in Maryland.

“I’m definitely in love with the process, getting more work done. I’m working smarter,” he said.

He’s also coping with his newfound fame after coming just two wins away from breaking a 19-year Grand Slam drought by US men’s players. He is also the first black American to reach the semi-finals at Flushing His Meadows since Arthur His Ashes in 1972.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama was among those who supported Tiafoe from the packed stands at the stadium named after the late Hall of Famer on Friday night.

When he first noticed her, he was so stunned that he shunted the service return.

“It was crazy to see her there…we all know what she means,” he said, adding that he met her afterwards.

“I’ve met her before, but things are a little different. She looks at me and is excited to see me in person. It’s an unbelievable night.”

With fresh players like Tiafoe, 19-year-old Alcalaz and Italy’s Yannick Sinner poised to step out of the shadows of the big three, the final major of the year served as a fascinating preview of the sport’s future. .

“Of course I wanted to win tonight,” Tiafoe said.

“But I think tennis won tonight.”

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