MELBOURNE : Tommy Paul believes it is important for him to put American men's tennis back on the map after the 25-year-old became the first American man to reach the Australian Open semi-finals since 2009 after he defeated Ben Shelton on Wednesday.
Paul used his experience and consistency to outclass Shelton 7-6(6) 6-3 5-7 6-4 in an all-American clash on Rod Laver Arena, setting up a semi-final meeting with either nine-times champion Novak Djokovic or fifth seed Andrey Rublev.
World number 35 Paul is the first man from the United States to reach the semi-finals at Melbourne Park since Andy Roddick in 2009 and the third active American man to advance to the last four of a Grand Slam after John Isner and Frances Tiafoe.
"American tennis is (important). Since I was young, that's all we've been hearing, since like 14 years old. The coaches have been telling us, we need new Americans, we need new Americans," Paul told reporters.
"It's kind of engraved in my head. We all want to perform. Obviously Frances was pretty damn close at (last year's) U.S. Open to getting past the semis. Who knows what would have happened in the final.
"I think we all want it pretty bad for ourselves, but we want it for U.S. tennis, too."
Paul, who would break into the top 10 if he wins his maiden Grand Slam title in Melbourne, said he would have a better chance of beating Rublev than Djokovic in the semi-finals.
"Obviously he (Djokovic) is pretty comfortable here in Australia. It's going to be a challenging match. But I'm playing some of my best tennis, so it's a good time," Paul added.
Paul's mother flew from the U.S. to Australia to watch him in Wednesday's match, which he described as an "exciting" moment.
"She has done a lot for me from when I was really young until now. She has sacrificed a ton to get me here. She deserves to be here and see me win big matches," he added.