Ahead of their much-anticipated all-African-American clash, Tiafoe and Shelton’s friendship came to light as Gauff revealed in her post-match press conference that the two have friendly banter behind the scenes.

On fashion and friendship

Instead of becoming rivals and intimidating each other through power plays, the two youngsters preferred to make light of things by engaging in private talks and friendly banter.

Gauff, who is good friends with the two players, narrates that she caught them in the middle of a trash talk in the cooldown/warmup area.

Coco Gauff:

“After my match, Ben and Frances were in the cooldown area, or warmup area, and it was really just cool to see us all there,” Gauff said. “Obviously the conversation, they already started the trash talk. I’m indifferent who wins, but I did say that Frances is a little bit upset because I said Ben had the better outfit than him.”

Tiafoe was then asked to comment about this, to which he replied something hilarious that caused the whole room to laugh.

Frances Tiafoe:

“Yeah, she’s all loving Ben’s light-skin energy, I guess (smiling). I think my outfit is much better, you know what I mean?”

In addition, Shelton said he was certain that there would be “a little chip back and forth” during the contest. He went on to recount another hilarious interaction they had where Tiafoe said that he looked much better with a sleeveless shirt.

Ben Shelton:

“There’s a million things Frances can do to try to throw me off. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does. I’m sure there [will] be a little chirp back and forth once or twice during the match. [He busts me about] everything. There’s not a time that he walks by me in the locker room and doesn’t say something [like], ‘Man, I’m looking way better than you in this sleeveless shirt. You got to work on those shoulders, buddy.’ We always have some banter. All friendly stuff.”

“We’re going to compete hard to make the semifinals of a slam, that’s for sure. I’m 100 per cent sure that we’re still going to be friends.”

Tennis Talk

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In a separate conference, the two also talked about their upcoming match in the last eight and how their strategies would go throughout the game:

Frances Tiafoe:

“Ben has wanted to play me at the Open for a long time. He’s an extremely loud player, hits the ball big, serves huge, [149 mph on Sunday against Tommy Paul] pretty much throwing his whole arm at that thing. He’s so pumped up, comes to the net, great volleys, really athletic, fun to watch. He’s yelling the loudest ‘C’mon!’ from the first point till the last. I’m just going to have to tame him down, try to be the vet and get the win.” , Tiafoe said.

“I’m going to try to make him play a lot of balls, make it a really tough night for him. We’ll see. I like playing lefties. Not gonna lay out all the anecdotes right here.”

Ben Shelton:

“It’s not like I’m in this craze all the time. Maybe I’ll take the first three to five seconds after a point to be emotional, and then I try to shut it down, shut my mouth, breathe through my nose, get my heart rate down and be ready for the next point.”

“I love those pressure moments, [saving break points]. That’s when I hit my best serves, come up with my plus-one plays or the volleys. I’m not scared of them at all.”

The pressure is on

With so much attention the match has gained lately, as it involves two people of color competing against each other, the pressure is definitely on for Tiafoe and Shelton. Nevertheless, the two refused to get the media into their heads. Tiafoe said that although this match is monumental, in the bigger picture, it’s tennis that’s going to win, while Shelton said that he’s not worried because at least one American is going to win the match.

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Frances Tiafoe:

“We’re both going to go out, compete, and put on a show. Two people of color playing in the quarterfinals, in Arthur Ashe? It’s a monumental moment. In the bigger picture, I think tennis is going to win.”

Ben Shelton:

“This is what [the media] always talk about: who’s going to be the next Grand Slam champion? I don’t know. I’m not too worried. At least one American is going to be in the semifinals here.”




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