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Defending champ Tiafoe, top-seeded Shelton advance to U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship final

Frances Tiafoe Frances Tiafoe - Getty Images

HOUSTON (AP) — Defending champion Frances Tiafoe and top-seeded Ben Shelton will play for the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship title after winning semifinal matches on Saturday.

Tiafoe, ranked 21st, defeated Luciano Darderi 6-2, 7-6 (2) and looks to become the event's first repeat champion since Steve Johnson did it in 2017 and 2018.

After a dominant opening, Darderi rallied for a second-set tiebreaker. But Tiafoe was relentless and clinched his first ATP final of the season on his opponent's double fault.

“Great performance from me today,” said Tiafoe, who credited more aggression and more fun for his return to the final. ”It's a little different clay out here in Houston, you can play more like a hard court."

Shelton came back from losing a first-set tiebreaker to beat Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4 and reach the second ATP final of his career and his first on clay.

Shelton, a 21-year-old ranked 16th, acknowledged it took him until a few games in the second set to find his form.

“You have a lot of time out here, playing on clay. The game just moves a little bit slower, you have more time to process," Shelton said. "I tried to use that to my advantage today and really happy to be in the finals my first time here in Houston.”

Tiafoe lost his only career meeting with Shelton at the U.S. Open quarterfinals last September.


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