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Tiafoe survives Rublev, reaches semifinals

Francis Tiafoe during a Junior Boys' Singles quarterfinal match against Andrey Rublev on Court 11.
By David Kane
Friday, September 5, 2014

WHAT HAPPENED: No. 6 Francis Tiafoe almost let a 6-1, 5-1 lead with two match points in the second set get away before the young American held on to upset top-seeded Andrey Rublev of Russia in a titanic battle, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 to reach the US Open boys' singles semifinals on Friday.

Tiafoe raced through the first three games of the match with powerful forehands. Rublev struggled to control both his shots and his temper. bouncing his racquet several times and muttering to himself. Tiafoe stayed focused on his own tennis and finished the 16-minute romp with a thunderous ace.

Tiafoe broke in a marathon third game of the second set and again in the fifth game as the Easter Bowl champion built a seemingly comfortable 5-1 lead. From there, it began to unravel for the American, who failed to convert two match points at 5-3 as the reiging French Open junior champion roared back, breaking Tiafoe three straight times to reel off the next six games to force a deciding set.

The third set went on serve until the seventh game. At 3-3 Tiafoe would finally get the service break, letting out a roar to the delight of the hometown crowd.

After another medical timeout, this time for Rublev's right shoulder, the Russian dug out of a 0-30 hole to hold for 4-5 and force Tiafoe to serve it out for the third time in the match. Recovering from a tense moment as the match hit the two-hour mark, the American finished off the top seed with a forehand winner.

WHAT IT MEANS: Tiafoe will next play No. 5 seed and European Junior Championship winner Quentin Halys. The Frenchman played four games of his quarterfinal before getting a retirement win over  No. 4 seed and two-time junior Slam finalist Stefan Kozlov.

The American is into the semifinals of the US Open for the first time.

THE QUESTION: Can Tiafoe reach the final of his home Grand Slam tournament?