Frances Tiafoe of the US came through a second set battle to reach the Rakuten Japan Open quarter finals as he continued to produce impressive performances on court.
I’ve been on tour for seven or eight years now, none of that really moves me. I wanna win for me, I’m not trying to achieve anybody else’s goals. Frances Tiafoe
The 24-year-old American, who has been in the spotlight since beating Rafa Nadal on the way to his first Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open last month, beat Spaniard Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-1 7-6(7) in the second round in Tokyo.
Tiafoe breezed through the first set before Miralles fought back to take the second to a tie-break that saw some of the best rallies of the 92-minute encounter.
“Good match today, tough second set,” said Tiafoe, who has become the King of the Tiebreaks having won 13 on the trot.
“Sometimes it tips well your way. I’m playing very aggressive, I’m serving well in the tie-breaks, always a couple of aces.”
After stunning Nadal at Flushing Meadows, Tiafoe played a starring role at the Laver Cup in London where he won the singles which clinched the trophy for Team Europe for the first time.
But the fourth-seeded player, currently world number 19, said he was comfortable with all the attention he is currently receiving.
“I don’t really care about what other people think I should be doing because I’ve had recent success.
“You know: ‘Oh, is he going to be the next…?’,” he said.
“I’ve been on tour for seven or eight years now, none of that really moves me. I wanna win for me, I’m not trying to achieve anybody else’s goals.”
Tiafoe said his solid run since the US Open had been “great”, adding that “I’m confident, and I’m just enjoying life.”
He next faces Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic in the last eight, after the Serb beat Dan Evans 6-3 3-6 7-6(4) following the Brit’s failure to convert one of the six match points he held.
The Serb trailed Evans 0-40 at 5-4 in the final set but produced a sensational comeback while his back was against the wall.
He missed a match point of his own at 6-5, before winning the final four points of the tie-break to take the win.
“That was the first time I did that,” Kecmanovic said about the match points. “I absolutely loved the game and just went for it at the time.
“I had a lot of ups and downs, especially in the third set, with a 4-1 lead. Somehow, I managed to stay inside, and luckily, I’m still here.”
Speaking of confidence, Nick Kyrgios roared back from a “frustrating” first set to reach the quarter finals, defeating Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak 3-6 6-2 6-2.
Despite his slow start, the controversial Australian emerged victorious in typical crowd-pleasing style, showing off with aggressive aces and some exaggeratedly effortless points.
The 27-year-old, who was knocked out in the last eight at the US Open, said that despite Majchrzak breaking his serve, there was “never really doubt in my mind that I was going to win”.
“I’ve barely been broken all year,” so when “the opponent doesn’t really do much to break me it’s quite frustrating,” he said after the 81-minute match.
“I was just not playing the right way — the court’s very fast,” Kyrgios added.
But by being “a bit more aggressive” in the second and third sets, the world number 20 said he “ended up just weathering the storm and then coming through.”
“I’ve got really good confidence in my game right now. So I don’t really doubt myself, even when I’m down a set. I think playing Grand Slams and going far in Grand Slams has given me that confidence that even if I lose a set I’m still able to maintain and increase my level in the match.”
Kyrgios, whose lawyer appeared for him at a court hearing in Australia this week to defend a charge of common assault, will face third-seeded American Taylor Fritz who, despite the crowds support, overcame Japan’s Hiroki Moriya 6-1 3-6 6-4.
“Fritz has had a “breakthrough year”, fifth-seeded Kyrgios said and admitted it would be a tough match.
The last quarter final pitches Croatia’s Borna Coric, the ninth seed against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov, the seventh seed, the pair having defeated American Brandon Nakashima and Japan’s Rio Noguchi respectively 7-5 6-2 and 6-3 6-1.