Japan Open: Tiafoe’s blistering start helps him overwhelm Kecmanovic in quarter-finals

Frances Tiafoe of the US reacts during his men's singles quarter-final match against Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia at the Japan Open tennis tournament...

US Open semi-finalist Frances Tiafoe is into his third ATP tour-level semi-final of 2022 after a remarkable start – firing on all cylinders – proved key in helping him overpower Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic in a tussle between two players on similar trajectories. The 24-year-old American will next play either Pedro Martinez or Soonwoo Kwon in little over 24 hours time, with multiple factors meaning a winnable path has seriously opened up in this week’s ATP 500 event.

Tiafoe continues trending upwards with kecmanovic victory

Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia hits a return against Frances Tiafoe of the US during their men's singles quarter-final match at the Japan Open tennis...

Kecmanovic acquitted himself well deep in their contest, but his renewed efforts came too late

Tiafoe [4] bt. Kecmanovic 6-0, 6-4

Frances Tiafoe’s showing on this occasion was largely an unconscious one. As it stands, he’s leapfrogged Diego Schwartzman and fellow US Open semifinalist Karen Khachanov into a new career-high world no. 17 ranking. Given his play, that number should still rise this weekend.

After a 26-minute first set helped give him breathing space during his win over Spain’s Bernardes Zapata Miralles 24 hours prior, the US Open semi-finalist needed 25 to blast beyond the defences of Miomir Kecmanovic in gladly snatching a commanding early advantage.

He frequently hit the ball deep on returns, served well and reeled off winners aplenty – whether that be drop shots, forehands, rally-ending finishers and more as Kecmanovic only won 12 of their 40 first set points – a handful of those coming in the final game of set one.

Tiafoe was noticeably quick between points, keen to get on with things and was clearly in his flow state but how long would that last?

Kecmanovic upped his aggression to start the second and had more success, despite finding himself in a situation where he saved four break points and was still down an early break.

Tiafoe’s court coverage and foot speed to constantly return balls that would confound most other opposition was a demoralising sight.

None moreso than the American’s one-handed backhand flick winner up-the-line, having been pulled from pillar to post mid-rally and still conjuring up the execution to finish the point against an increasingly frustrated Serb. I mean, just marvel at the magic on display here:

Kecmanovic eventually got on the scoreboard, down 6-0 and 2-1 as the physio and doctor met him at the subsequent changeover assessing what appeared to be a back or hip issue.

After a medical timeout, the glimpses of opportunity flashed for Miomir with Tiafoe’s service games taking longer to get by and his first serve percentage dipping from those first set heights.

Frances Tiafoe of the US serves against Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia during their men's singles quarter-final match at the Japan Open tennis...

Tiafoe’s serving was patchy in places but devastating when it needed to be

It wasn’t for long enough though. A 121mph serve helped the 24-year-old get out of trouble to go 4-2 up, before Kecmanovic kept things poised with an assertive hold of his own.

At one point, it was 30-all as Tiafoe served for the match. A sweeping forehand crosscourt winner, moments after firing off a 128mph serve no less, presented his first match point opportunity. Keeping in theme with his big serving, a 122mph serve sealed the deal for Tiafoe.


Other quarter-finals elsewhere today…

Iga Swiatek of Poland talks to the media after defeating Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia in her second round match on Day 3 of the Agel Open at...

World no. 1 Swiatek faces French Open junior finalist McNally for the first time as pros later today

ATP
Japan

Pedro Martinez vs. Soo woo Kwon
Nick Kyrgios [5] vs. Taylor Fritz [3]
Denis Shapovalov [7] vs. Borna Coric [9]
Astana
Adrian Mannarino vs. Andrey Rublev [5]
Stefanos Tsitsipas [3] vs. Hubert Hurkacz [7]
Karen Khachanov vs. Novak Djokovic [4]
Roberto Bautista Agut vs. Daniil Medvedev [2]
WTA
Ostrava

Iga Swiatek [1] vs. Caty McNally [Q]
Tereza Martincova [WC] vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova
Barbora Krejcikova vs. Alycia Parks [Q]
Elena Rybakina vs. Petra Kvitova [WC]
Monastir
Ons Jabeur [1] vs. Claire Liu
Moyuka Uchijima [Q] vs. Elise Mertens [5]
Tamara Zidansek vs. Alize Cornet [3]
Diane Parry vs. Veronika Kudermetova [2]

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