The U.S. Open went plaid yesterday.
We had written a couple of days ago about how Frances Tiafoe’s growth was the result of being able to keep his all-powerful game just reined in enough so that it’s controlled chaos instead of Smash TV on a tennis court. The thing is, when that control is total, and when everything is just right, it means that a player like Tiafoe can, under control somehow, take his game to a zone that no mortal should dare ever speak of. And it all feels… natural. It was such in yesterday’s second-set tiebreak in Tiafoe’s straight-set win over Andrey Rublev.
That was only a sample of what Tiafoe unfurled as he skunked Rublev in the tiebreak, winning seven straight points that were filled with bazooka blasts that caught lines or the kind of touch that should only be expressed to a lover and not a tennis ball. It was celestial. When you learn how to control your explosive game expertly, perhaps you know when you can let it all go Cirque De Fuck You.
The display left Rublev in tears, which is understandable, as this was the fifth straight Grand Slam quarterfinal that Rublev has lost. But when your opponent is channeling spirits and gods, it may feel there’s more against you than you can possibly handle. How could life feel more unfair than to draw this?
Tiafoe becomes the first American to advance to the U.S. Open semifinals since Andy Roddick in 2006.
Not to be outdone, Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz put on a late-night exhibition of what tennis will look like in the future, unleashing the tennis equivalent of Hagler-Hearns at each other for four sets and nearly five hours instead of just a couple of rounds. The level these two reached not just for a game or two or a set or two but for the whole thing was quite possibly unseen in the sport before. Sinner also lifted off and became something else in the match’s third-set tiebreak, where he also skunked Alcaraz.
With none of the Big Four around, and no Danil Medvedev either, it seems the game’s young stars are finally grabbing this tournament by the throat. It would be described as obscene to watch if it wasn’t so enjoyable.