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Frances Tiafoe falls short against David Goffin at Wimbledon

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WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — A great opportunity had appeared and then dissolved, making it feel like one of those endings so harrowing that the non-winner wishes the technology had stopped on VHS so they could take the tape and record it. in some cathartic ceremony.

Then Frances Tiafoe arrived in the interrogation room, looking a little more upbeat than downhearted. He felt sure of her continued ascent. She answered questions about her rarefied sense of humor on the court. He looked perfectly 24 years old: a tour veteran and a puppy in tennis years all at once.

Also, he had just played the co-star in a doozy in Court No. 2.

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“Just a great battle,” he said.

In the Hyattsville boy’s career arc, Tiafoe’s 4hr 36min 403 point fight with Belgium’s David Goffin in the Wimbledon Round of 16 on Sunday could have been a big step in crossing a key bridge in a sport where powerful achievements happen in narrow corridors. He could have given her a second Grand Slam quarterfinal berth and her first since the 2019 Australian Open. He could have given her a real shot at a first Grand Slam semi-final, perhaps on center court against Novak Djokovic. .

Instead, Goffin’s 7-6 (7-3), 5-7, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 win could serve as something else for 23rd-seeded Tiafoe: a new emblem of be up there in some place. “The level of tennis was, I mean, top 10, easy,” Tiafoe said. “Hitting ridiculous shots, both of them.”

So that time in the fourth set he served at 4-5 and saved three set points, then had three game points, then went down on a double fault and a forehand into the net from a 17-shot play…

And that time in the fifth set when he came back at 5-5 and saw two break points at 15-40 and then suffered ace, service winner, service winner, service winner…

There was the possibility of an all-American quarter-final between Tiafoe and Tommy Paul, before they both lost on Sunday and Paul said after losing in straight sets to Cameron Norrie: “Our side of the draw was pretty open; I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone.”

It might be okay not to burn it all down, especially given the quality of Tiafoe in the middle of a masterpiece of a fight.

“We definitely left it on the court,” he said at one point.

“The rallies were crazy; level was crazy,” he said in another.

It’s clear after 25 Grand Slam entries that Tiafoe yearns for the next step, which would be a routine presence in the second weeks of the major groups. He said it the other day: “I want more.” He has been to four fourth rounds, winning one. In a sport with one amazing generation slowly giving way to the next – unless, say, Djokovic keeps winning into his 50s – and in which an even younger duo had a heyday on center court on Sunday (sensation 20-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner outclassed 19-year-old Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz in four sets), it might be time for Tiafoe to move on and start moving a little deeper into the fortnights.

That’s why this could be described as agony, but for now he said that he might even watch the match again in a few days, he might even see the displays of kindness between the 28th ranked player (Tiafoe) and the 58th ranked player. (Goffin), who also met in the second round at the French Open, a four-set win for the Belgian.

“You appreciate it a lot more later, don’t you?” Tiafoe said. “During, you’re just trying to do everything in your power to try and get a win. I haven’t even really processed what just happened. I just played five brutal sets. Crazy rallies, running everywhere. Yeah, probably in a couple of days, maybe if I watch the game or whatever, I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, man, that was crazy to be a part of. ”

For now: “I’m going to be sore as hell tomorrow.”

Chosen words, bizarre antics mark a mad men’s night at Wimbledon

“The atmosphere on that court was unbelievable,” said Goffin, a 31-year-old who advanced to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam. “There are players against whom it is always nice to play, not because of the game or something like that, but because there is always a good atmosphere on the court with the opponent and also the public likes it. That was the case today with Frances. We gave everything on the pitch. … So yeah, it’s a great memory on that court.”

It had weight but also humor, showing Tiafoe’s useful ability for the latter. After a chase at first, he shook hands with a spectator.

“He’s giving a nice formal handshake,” Tiafoe said. “I thought it was funny. … That calmed me down. After that, it was war.”

After another chase later in the fourth set, he ended up near a lineswoman so he just leaned into her and then ended up hugging her.

“I see the lady, I went up to the lady, also tired, so I just hugged the lady,” he said. “Hit it hard on the line [just before that], also. She laughed at that.”

After she sent a fourth-set serve so far it looked like it went over the baseline — “Worst serve I’ve ever done in my life,” she said — she did something more subtle: She raised her racket briefly as if to challenge the call from line. .

“Yeah, I actually wish I had,” he said of the challenge. “That would have been hilarious. I think the whole crowd would have laughed.”

Those things can help when things go on so long that, as Tiafoe said: “It felt like we were on a clay court at one point, the rallies were so long. I was like, ‘This is defeating the purpose of grass court season!’ ”

Technically, he lost.

“It’s definitely going to sting,” he said. “In the end, a good opportunity for many guys. I was hoping Tommy and I could win, play in the quarterfinals, but unfortunately we both lost. Yeah, it was a chance for a lot of guys to try to go further in the Slam. … At the end of the day, I played great tennis, so it’s not something I can think about or feel sorry for myself.”

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