MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Young American Frances Tiafoe has attributed his entertaining post-match celebrations to basketballer LeBron James after extending his stellar run at the Australian Open with a 6-7(3) 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-3 third round victory against Italian veteran Andreas Seppi on Friday.
Tiafoe, who turns 21 on Sunday, has become a crowd favourite in Australia because of his shirt-ripping, fist-pumping routines which he said are spontaneous, but inspired by the basketball great.
“Just try to bring something in tennis,” he said.
“Obviously you guys know I’m a big basketball fan. Love the team celebrations.”
Asked by reporters after his match what he liked about the Los Angeles Lakers star, Tiafoe responded: “What don’t you like about LeBron?”
Brimming with confidence after dispatching fifth seed Kevin Anderson in the second round, Tiafoe came from two sets to one down on Friday in his best ever Grand Slam run.
After unleashing a forehand winner down the line to seal the win, he tore off his shirt, pounded his chest and yelled “Yeah!” at the terraces.
He went back to his chair, pounded it with his hands like a drum before sitting down to soak up the moment as fans chanted his name.
“I love playing in big stages, I always play well,” Tiafoe said.
“Now I just kind of thrive for those moments, I want those moments.”
He will play Grigor Dimitrov, seeded 20, in the fourth round.
Tiafoe is the last American man standing in the singles draw in an otherwise disappointing tournament for U.S. men’s tennis.
However, the first major of the year does show the country has some fast-emerging talents after 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova stunned 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka to storm into the fourth round.
(Reporting by Jonathan Barrett and Ian Ransom; Editing by Toby Davis)