Frances Tiafoe was terrific — and he knew it.
After he ripped a backhand winner on match point Wednesday, Tiafoe turned to the roaring Louis Armstrong Stadium crowd, and shouted repeatedly “Let’s go! Let’s go!’’
After the handshake, the Maryland native wasn’t done celebrating his 6-1, 6-2, 7-5 second-round cruise past Argentina’s Guido Pella. Tiafoe swung his right arm, thumped his chest and punched the air a few more times.
The court’s roof was closed because of the imminent threat of a rainstorm and Tiafoe thrived as the pro-American crowd ate it up. They are hoping for an American men’s player to make a long Open run.
“I love it,’’ Tiafoe said of the crowd support. “This is what it’s all about. I like the court. Like how it feels.’’
There have been a lot of expectations for the 23-year-old, whose athleticism is off the charts, but who has struggled with consistency. He had a big upset win over Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas at this year’s Wimbledon and made the fourth round of the fan-less Open last year.
“It’s going to happen when it happens,’’ said Tiafoe, who currently is ranked 50th. “Sometimes you don’t see the progress until it hits you right in the face.’’
Next up for Tiafoe, on Friday, will be a doozy of a third-rounder against the young fifth seed from Russia, Andrey Rublev, who is coming off a run to the finals in the Cincinnati warm-up event.
Tiafoe showed the bravado Wednesday that makes USTA officials still believe in him.
“I saw the draw early and I was hoping I get my two first two rounds,’’ Tiafoe said. “I want [Rublev] bad. Hopefully, we’re put on this court and you guys are behind me. I’m going after him.’’
When asked the key to beating Rublev, Tiafoe said holding serve will be a must, then added: “Keep backing yourself and trusting yourself. I like a little showtime. Let’s have some fun.”
Tiafoe threw the kitchen sink at Pella — a perfectly sliced backhand drop-shot winner in the first set brought a big smile. He was unafraid of approaching the net. He hit a couple of overhead-smash winners after setting it up with alert volleys.
“I felt I played great tennis,’’ Tiafoe said. “No loose errors. One of those performances you can say you had a good day. I’m playing great tennis right now. I’m dangerous.’’
Tiafoe’s victory continued the momentum of American men, after another young U.S. hopeful, Taylor Fritz, beat 14th-seeded Alex de Minaur in a four-setter that ended past midnight Tuesday morning.
Fritz, ranked 42nd, has also been touted as a potential American men’s breakthrough star. He had lost four prior times to de Minaur.
“He’s pretty much been my dad since we started playing,” Fritz joked.