Frances Tiafoe said after his US Open semifinal loss to Carlos Alcaraz on Friday that he was worried that former US First Lady Michelle Obama - who was in attendance - might have thought that he cannot make a return to save his life.
In a battle between two first-time Major semifinalists, it was Tiafoe who made the brighter start by taking the opener. However, Alcaraz bounced back into contention by taking the next two sets. Tiafoe fought back by forcing a decider, where he recovered from a break down, but was unable to complete his comeback as Alcaraz eventually took the win 6(6)-7, 6-3, 6-1, 6(5)-7, 6-3.
In a match that was watched by many eminent dignitaries and celebrities, Tiafoe and Alcaraz produced a spectacle befitting the occasion.
In his press conference, Tiafoe said that he spotted Michelle Obama - wife of former US President Barack Obama - in the crowd. However, he hoped that a shanked return wasn't the memory of him that Mrs. Obama took back home.
"I seen her like 2-1 in the first, kind of turned my head right. She looked at me. Before they announced her, put it on the Jumbotron, I already seen her. Everybody was pointing at her. I seen her. I think I shanked a return. Yeah, she thinks I'm a bum, can't make a return (smiling).
The American added that it was "crazy" to spot the former US First Lady on a night when the "who's who" of American celebrity was in attendance. He said:
"Seeing her there was crazy. Obviously there was a lot of who's whos in there tonight. Obviously we all know what she means. Crazy. Crazy getting to meet her after. Seen her before, but it's a little bit different circumstance. She sees me and she's actually excited to see me. Yeah, unbelievable. Unbelievable night."
Alcaraz will now take on a winner-takes-all final against Casper Ruud on Sunday, hoping to become a first-time Major winner and the new World No. 1.
"It's not easy to go 8-0 in breakers" - Frances Tiafoe
Frances Tiafoe had a fortnight to remember at Flushing Meadows. The American slayed three top-20 players before falling at the fourth time of asking. En route to his first Major semifinal, Tiafoe went 6-0 in tiebreaks. He added two more to that tally against Alcaraz, but that was not enough to give him a win on the night.
Nevertheless, Frances Tiafoe was happy with the level of tennis he displayed in New York this fortnight. On becoming the first player to win eight tiebreaks at the US Open, the American was at a loss for words, especially as he wasn't serving as well as he would have hoped to during the breakers against Alcaraz.
"I don't know, man," said Tiafoe. "That's crazy. I was laughing after I won the fourth in the breaker. This is wild. I don't know. I guess the breakers are just making sense. I really don't know what to say."
"Usually in the other breakers, I was serving huge. Today I wasn't serving so well at all. So I was playing really well from the back. It's not easy to go 8-0 in breakers. I played a lot in this tournament. I wish the fifth was a breaker because maybe I would have been 9-and-0."
Frances Tiafoe is now set to enter the top 20 of the ATP rankings for the first time next week.