Frances Tiafoe

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Frances Tiafoe
Tiafoe EBN17 (3) (35716381482).jpg
Frances Tiafoe at 2017 Eastbourne
Country (sports) United States
ResidenceOrlando, Florida, US
Born (1998-01-20) January 20, 1998 (age 21)
Hyattsville, Maryland, US
Height1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
Turned pro2015
PlaysRight-handed (two-handed backhand)
CoachZack Evenden
Prize moneyUS$2,265,451
Singles
Career record41–57 (41.84%)
Career titles1
Highest rankingNo. 29 (February 11, 2019)
Current rankingNo. 35 (March 4, 2019)
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian OpenQF (2019)
French Open1R (2015, 2017, 2018)
Wimbledon3R (2018)
US Open2R (2018)
Doubles
Career record8–15 (34.78%)
Career titles0
Highest rankingNo. 203 (August 6, 2018)
Current rankingNo. 201 (January 28, 2019)
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian Open1R (2018)
French Open1R (2017, 2018)
Wimbledon1R (2017, 2018)
US Open2R (2014)
Team competitions
Davis CupSF (2018)
Hopman CupRR (2019)
Last updated on: January 28, 2019.

Frances Tiafoe (/tiˈɑːf/ tee-AH-foh;[1] born January 20, 1998) is an American professional tennis player. He is the fourth-youngest player ranked in the Top 50 by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and has a career-high ranking of No. 29 in the world. He won his first ATP title at the 2018 Delray Beach Open.

The son of Sierra Leonean immigrants, Tiafoe was raised at a USTA Regional Training Center in Maryland where his father worked as the head of maintenance. His unique background and success as a teenager led him to be widely hyped as a great prospect to become one of the next tennis stars for the United States. Tiafoe first broke into the Top 100 of the ATP rankings in 2016. With his victory at the 2018 Delray Beach Open, he became the youngest American titlist on the ATP Tour since Andy Roddick in 2002.

Early in his career, Tiafoe won the Orange Bowl in 2013 at 15 years old, making him the youngest boys' singles champion in the history of the tournament. At the age of 17, he became the youngest American to participate in the main draw of the French Open since Michael Chang in 1989. As a teenager, Tiafoe also won the US Junior National Championship and enjoyed success on the ATP Challenger Tour with 9 finals and 4 titles.

Early life and background[edit]

Tiafoe was born on January 20, 1998, along with his twin brother Franklin, in Maryland, to Constant and Alphina Tiafoe (née Kamara), immigrants from Sierra Leone. His father emigrated to the United States in 1993, while his mother joined him in 1996 to escape the civil war in their home country. In 1999, Tiafoe's father began working as a day laborer on a construction crew that built the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) in College Park, Maryland. When the facility was completed, he was hired as the on-site custodian and given a spare office to live in at the center. Frances and Franklin would live with their father at the center for five days a week for the next 11 years, and took advantage of their unique living situation to start playing tennis regularly from the age of 4. They would stay with their mother when she was not working night shifts as a nurse.[2][3]

When Frances and his brother were 5 years old, their father arranged for them to begin training at the JTCC, bypassing their usual fees. At the age of 8, Misha Kouznetsov began coaching Frances at the center, taking interest in him after seeing his work ethic and interest in the sport. Kouznetsov would help sponsor Tiafoe to play at tournaments as he progressed through the juniors at a young age. He continued to coach Frances for nine years until Tiafoe moved to the USTA National Training Center in Boca Raton, Florida to train with more experienced coaches.[2][3]

Junior career[edit]

Tiafoe at 2013 US Open

Tiafoe won a number of high-level junior titles, reaching a career-high of world No. 2 in the ITF junior rankings. His success at the juniors combined with his unusual upbringing helped him rise to national prominence before he turned pro.[2][3][4][5][6] At the age of 14, Tiafoe won his first prestigious international tournament at Les Petits As in France.[7] The following year in December 2013, Tiafoe became the youngest player to win the Orange Bowl, defeating compatriot Stefan Kozlov in the final a month before turning 16 years old.[8] Several months later, he also won the Easter Bowl.[9]

With these two big titles, Tiafoe was the top seed at the 2014 French Open junior tournament. However, he was upset in the second round.[10] He then lost at Wimbledon to the eventual champion Noah Rubin. Tiafoe produced his best result at a junior grand slam at the US Open, where he reached the semifinals before losing a very tight match to Quentin Halys. This would be the last ITF tournament he would play at the junior level.[11] In August 2015, Tiafoe capped off his junior career by winning the USTA Junior National Championship at the age of 17. He defeated Stefan Kozlov in the final in a five set match, taking the first two sets and the last. With the win, he earned a wild card into the main draw at the US Open.[12]

Professional career[edit]

2014–15: French and US Open debuts[edit]

Tiafoe made his ATP main draw debut at the age of 16 after being granted a wild card by his home tournament, the 2014 Citi Open in Washington. He lost to Evgeny Donskoy in his first career match.[13] At the 2014 US Open, Tiafoe received a wild card into the qualifying draw but lost to 11th seed Tatsuma Ito. In the doubles tournament, Tiafoe was awarded a wild card into the main draw with Michael Mmoh. The two teenagers picked up their first career win at the ATP level in the first round by defeating veterans Víctor Estrella Burgos and Teymuraz Gabashvili, before losing in the second round.[14] In March 2015, Tiafoe claimed his first professional title by winning the ITF Futures tournament at Bakersfield. He officially turned pro the following month.[15]

In April 2015, Tiafoe broke through onto the ATP Challenger level. After starting the month outside the Top 800, he put together a string of solid results that pushed him into the Top 300 in the world by the time the first set of ATP rankings were published in May.[16] Even though his ranking was too low to gain direct entry into any of the three American clay court Challenger events, Tiafoe reached the quarterfinals of Sarasota as a qualifier, then reached the semifinals of Savannah as a wildcard, and finally reached his first career Challenger final at Tallahassee with a special exempt.[17] At the last tournament, he defeated top seed Facundo Bagnis to notch his first win against a Top 100 opponent. Tiafoe's performance at these events was good enough to win the 2015 Har-Tru Challenge and earn the only American wild card spot into the main draw of the 2015 French Open.[18][19] In his grand slam debut, Tiafoe lost his first round match to Martin Kližan. Nonetheless, he became the first 17-year old American to play in the main draw of the men's singles tournament since Michael Chang and Pete Sampras in 1989.[20]

At the Winston-Salem Open in August, Tiafoe entered the main draw as a qualifier and won first ATP tour level match after defeating James Duckworth in a third-set tiebreaker.[21] Tiafoe then made his main draw debut at the US Open with the wild card he earned from winning the junior national championship. He would lose to the No. 22 seed Viktor Troicki in the first round.[22] After the US Open, Tiafoe continued his success on the Challenger tour and reached a second final at Knoxville, losing to Dan Evans. Driven by his success at the Challenger level, Tiafoe climbed to a year-end ranking of 176, cracking the Top 200 a few months before turning 18 years old.[23]

2016: Challenger titles, top 100[edit]

Frances Tiafoe at 2016 Wimbledon

In the 2016 season, Tiafoe consistently produced excellent results at the Challenger level, but was unable to break through in his few opportunities at the ATP level. At the Indian Wells Masters, Tiafoe was awarded a wild card into the main draw and won his first-round match against his compatriot rival, No. 80 Taylor Fritz, in their first ever ATP-level match. This would turn out to be his only ATP match win of the year. He lost his next match to David Goffin in a third-set tiebreak.[24] Tiafoe's best performance in the clay court season came at Tallahassee where he avenged his loss to Facundo Arguello in the final the previous year by knocking him out in the first round. For the second consecutive year, he was able to reach the final, this time losing to fellow teenager Quentin Halys.[25]

Tiafoe began his return to the North American hard courts strongly by reaching his second Challenger final of the year at Winnetka before losing to top-seeded Yoshihito Nishioka. He then reached his third consecutive Challenger final in the United States at Lexington. The following week at Granby, Tiafoe reached his fourth Challenger final in five such events in North America.[17] He defeated Marcelo Arévalo in the final to capture his first Challenger title and climb to a career-high ranking of 123.[26] Tiafoe was awarded a wild card into the US Open, his only Grand Slam main draw of the year. He faced off against American veteran John Isner in the first round and won the first two sets, but eventually lost the match in a fifth-set tiebreak.[27] In October, Tiafoe cracked the Top 100 for the first time by winning the maiden event at Stockton, defeating fellow American Noah Rubin in the final.[28] He finished the year ranked at No. 108, making him the highest-ranked player at his age for the second year in a row.[29]

2017: ATP Doubles final[edit]

At the Australian Open, Tiafoe began the year by reaching the main draw of a Grand Slam through qualifying for the first time and then recording his first career Grand Slam match win over Mikhail Kukushkin.[30] To close out the winter hard court season, he also qualified for the Miami Masters and won his first round match before falling to Roger Federer.[31] Tiafoe followed up a good start to the year on the hard courts with a very impressive clay court season that helped his ranking climb to No. 65 in the world.[32] He began with the US Men's Clay Court Championships in Houston, where he reached his first career ATP final in the doubles event after partnering with veteran Dustin Brown as a wild card entry.[33] He then continued his success on clay by winning back-to-back Challenger titles over the next three weeks at the Sarasota Open on green clay and the Open du Pays d'Aix on red clay, the former of which included a victory over former Top 10 player Jürgen Melzer in the semifinals.[32]

In his Wimbledon debut, Tiafoe defeated Robin Haase in four sets for his first ATP Top 50 win. He followed this up with his first Top 10 win over world No. 7 Alexander Zverev at the Cincinnati Masters in August.[34] Tiafoe gained more prominence after pushing Roger Federer to five sets in his first round match on Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open.[35] In September, Captain John McEnroe chose Tiafoe to replace Juan Martín del Potro for Team World in the inaugural Laver Cup, which mostly featured players in the Top 25 of the ATP rankings.[36] He lost his only match to Marin Čilić.[37] Tiafoe achieved a year-end ranking inside the Top 100 for the first time, but only managed to be named the first alternate for the inaugural Next Generation ATP Finals.[38]

2018: First ATP title, top 50[edit]

Frances Tiafoe at 2018 Washington Open

Tiafoe entered the year having struggled on the ATP Tour, with just nine wins in 38 matches. Nonetheless, he would quadruple that number of wins by the end of the season.[39] At the inaugural New York Open, Tiafoe reached his first career quarterfinal at an ATP tour level event before losing to top seed Kevin Anderson. The following week, Tiafoe entered the Delray Beach Open as a wild card and won his first ATP title after beating Peter Gojowczyk in the final.[40] He became the first wild card entry to win the tournament. Along the way, he defeated his idol and world No. 10 Juan Martín del Potro as well as fellow Next Gen players Hyeon Chung and Denis Shapovalov. With the victory, he became the youngest American to win an ATP title since Andy Roddick won the US Clay Court Championships in 2002.[41] Tiafoe's win streak was snapped in the first round of the Indian Wells Masters by his compatriot Ernesto Escobedo. However, he bounced back at the Miami Masters to reach the fourth round, a career-best at a Masters event. He upset Tomas Berdych in the third round before losing to Kevin Anderson for the second time this year.[42]

Tiafoe continued his success at the ATP level into the clay court season. He played at the Estoril Open in Portugal for the first time and made it to his second ATP final of the year, despite needing to save three match points in the first round. He upset the defending champion, No. 11 Pablo Carreño Busta, in the semi-finals before losing to hometown favorite João Sousa in the final. Nonetheless, he became the youngest American to reach a clay court final in Europe since Andre Agassi played in the French Open final in 1990.[43] Tiafoe followed up on this success at Wimbledon by picking up his first win over a seeded opponent at a major against No. 30 Fernando Verdasco en route to reaching the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time. With this performance, he also broke into the Top 50 of the ATP rankings after the tournament.[44][45]

During the US Open series, Tiafoe had his best result at the Canadian Open. He defeated two top 30 players, including hometown favorite Milos Raonic, before losing to No. 5 Grigor Dimitrov in a third-set tiebreak.[46] At the US Open, Tiafoe won his first career match at the event against No. 29 Adrian Mannarino before losing to fellow Next Gen player Alex de Minaur in the second round.[47][48] Following the last Grand Slam event of the year, Tiafoe made his Davis Cup debut for the United States in the semifinal against Croatia. After easily losing to Marin Čilić in straight sets, Tiafoe played in the fifth and decisive rubber against Borna Ćorić. Despite taking a two set to one lead, he ultimately lost the match as the United States lost the tie.[49][50] For the second straight year, Tiafoe replaced Juan Martín del Potro in the Laver Cup.[51] He again lost his only match, this time to Dimitrov.[52] At the end of the season, Tiafoe qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals, having just barely failed to qualify the previous year. He defeated Hubert Hurkacz in his round robin group, but lost to Jaume Munar and the eventual champion Stefanos Tsitsipas as he did not advance out of the group.[53] Tiafoe finished the year ranked No. 39 in the world.[16]

2019: First Grand Slam quarterfinal[edit]

Tiafoe was unseeded at the 2019 Australian Open and defeated qualifier Prajnesh Gunneswaran in the first round. In the second, he pulled off a major upset, knocking out fifth seed Kevin Anderson in four sets. In the third round, he came back from two sets to one down to defeat Andreas Seppi, advancing to the fourth round of a major tournament for the first time. There, he faced 20th seed Grigor Dimitrov, who he defeated in a tight four set match. He thus secured his first Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance, where he lost to Rafael Nadal.[54]

Playing style[edit]

Like many of his top-ranked American contemporaries such as Jack Sock and Sam Querrey, Tiafoe plays an aggressive offensive game that relies on a big serve and powerful forehand. At 6 feet 2 inches tall, Tiafoe can launch serves at over 140 mph, although he generally hits first serves at just under 120 mph. After facing him at the 2016 US Open, John Isner remarked that Tiafoe could return his serve, which is widely regarded as one of the best in the game, as well as any player on tour outside of Novak Djokovic. He also noted that Frances' second serve could use improvement. Tiafoe's most unique shot is his forehand, which carries heavy topspin and is driven by an unusual arm motion. His backhand is also a solid shot, especially on service returns.[55][56][27] When Tiafoe won the 2018 Delray Beach Open, he credited an improved serve for his better play in the tournament.[57]

Coaches[edit]

When Tiafoe was playing at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in Maryland, he was coached by Misha Kouznetsov from age 8 to 17. Kouznetsov was previously a college tennis player at UMBC and a college tennis coach at Robert Morris. He left his job at the JTCC to work with Tiafoe full-time.[58] After Tiafoe moved to Florida to train with the USTA, he was coached by José Higueras from Spain, who led fellow Americans Michael Chang and Jim Courier to Grand Slam titles. Tiafoe also worked with Nicolas Todero while at USTA.[59] Robby Ginepri, a former US Open semifinalist, began coaching Tiafoe in the fall of 2016.[30] Tiafoe's friend Zack Evenden started to help coach him shortly before he won his first ATP title.[60][43]

Equipment and apparel[edit]

Tiafoe has been sponsored by Nike since May 2016.[61] He was previously sponsored by Adidas.[3] Tiafoe endorses the Yonex VCORE Pro 97 tennis racket equipped with Polytour Pro 125 strings. He chose this racket because it helps him "play more aggressively."[62]

Personal life[edit]

Tiafoe's tennis idol growing up was Juan Martin del Potro, in part because the Argentine was the first pro to sign a tennis ball for him.[63] The two first faced each other at Acapulco in 2017, with del Potro getting the victory in a third-set tiebreak. Tiafoe picked up his first win over his idol at the 2018 Delray Beach Open en route to his first career ATP title.[41]

Tiafoe likes to watch and play basketball, and is a big fan of fellow Washington D.C. area native Kevin Durant.[64] He is also a fan of Washington area sports teams, including the Washington Redskins in the National Football League and the Washington Capitals in the National Hockey League.[65][66] His brother Franklin played high school tennis at DeMatha Catholic High School, and is currently playing college tennis at Salisbury University in Maryland.[67]

Tiafoe has embraced his position both as one of the few African American players on the ATP Tour and as a potential role model to kids in general, saying, "That’s one of my biggest motivations – to get more black people playing tennis... But I'm just trying to inspire everyone, doesn't matter what race... especially younger people."[68][69]

ATP career finals[edit]

Singles: 2 (1 title, 1 runner-up)[edit]

Legend
Grand Slam tournaments (0–0)
ATP World Tour Finals (0–0)
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 (0–0)
ATP World Tour 500 Series (0–0)
ATP World Tour 250 Series (1–1)
Finals by surface
Hard (1–0)
Clay (0–1)
Grass (0–0)
Finals by setting
Outdoor (1–1)
Indoor (0–0)
Result W–L    Date    Tournament Tier Surface Opponent Score
Win 1–0 Feb 2018 Delray Beach Open, USA 250 Series Hard Germany Peter Gojowczyk 6–1, 6–4
Loss 1–1 May 2018 Estoril Open, Portugal 250 Series Clay Portugal João Sousa 4–6, 4–6

Doubles: 1 (1 runner-up)[edit]

Legend
Grand Slam tournaments (0–0)
ATP World Tour Finals (0–0)
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 (0–0)
ATP World Tour 500 Series (0–0)
ATP World Tour 250 Series (0–1)
Finals by surface
Hard (0–0)
Clay (0–1)
Grass (0–0)
Finals by setting
Outdoor (0–1)
Indoor (0–0)
Result W–L    Date    Tournament Tier Surface Partner Opponents Score
Loss 0–1 Apr 2017 US Clay Court Championships, USA 250 Series Clay Germany Dustin Brown Chile Julio Peralta
Argentina Horacio Zeballos
6–4, 5–7, [6–10]

ATP Challenger and ITF Futures finals[edit]

Singles: 12 (5–7)[edit]

Legend
ATP Challenger Tour (4–5)
ITF Futures Tour (1–2)
Finals by surface
Hard (3–4)
Clay (2–3)
Grass (0–0)
Result W–L    Date    Tournament Tier Surface Opponent Score
Loss 0–1 Jan 2015 Weston F5, US Futures Clay Monaco Benjamin Balleret 5–7, 4–6
Win 1–1 Mar 2015 Bakersfield F10, US Futures Hard France Maxime Tabatruong 6–1, 6–2
Loss 1–2 Mar 2015 Calabasas F11, US Futures Hard United States Dennis Novikov 6–7(4–7), 6–7(6–8)
Loss 1–3 May 2015 Tallahassee Challenger, US Challenger Clay Argentina Facundo Argüello 6–2, 6–7(5–7), 4–6
Loss 1–4 Nov 2015 Knoxville Challenger, US Challenger Hard (i) United Kingdom Dan Evans 7–5, 1–6, 3–6
Loss 1–5 Apr 2016 Tallahassee Challenger, US Challenger Clay France Quentin Halys 7–6(8–6), 4–6, 2–6
Loss 1–6 Jul 2016 Nielsen Pro Tennis Championships, US Challenger Hard Japan Yoshihito Nishioka 3–6, 2–6
Loss 1–7 Jul 2016 Lexington Challenger, US Challenger Hard United States Ernesto Escobedo 2–6, 7–6(8–6), 6–7(3–7)
Win 2–7 Aug 2016 Challenger de Granby, Canada Challenger Hard El Salvador Marcelo Arévalo 6–1, 6–1
Win 3–7 Oct 2016 Stockton Challenger, US Challenger Hard United States Noah Rubin 6–4, 6–2
Win 4–7 Apr 2017 Sarasota Open, US Challenger Clay United States Tennys Sandgren 6–3, 6–4
Win 5–7 May 2017 Open du Pays d'Aix, France Challenger Clay France Jérémy Chardy 6–3, 4–6, 7–6(7–5)

Doubles: 1 (0–1)[edit]

Legend
ATP Challenger Tour (0–0)
ITF Futures Tour (0–1)
Finals by surface
Hard (0–0)
Clay (0–1)
Grass (0–0)
Result W–L    Date    Tournament Tier Surface Partner Opponents Score
Loss 0–1 Jan 2014 Sunrise F2, USA Futures Clay United States William Blumberg Chinese Taipei Jason Jung
United States Evan King
7–6(7–4), 4–6, [6–10]

Performance timelines[edit]

Key
W  F  SF QF #R RR Q# A P Z# PO G F-S SF-B NMS NH
(W) Won; (F) finalist; (SF) semifinalist; (QF) quarterfinalist; (#R) rounds 4, 3, 2, 1; (RR) round-robin stage; (Q#) qualification round; (A) absent; (Z#) Davis/Fed Cup Zonal Group (with number indication) or (PO) play-off; (G) gold, (F-S) silver or (SF-B) bronze Olympic medal; a (NMS) downgraded Masters Series/1000 tournament; (NH) not held. SR=strike rate (events won/competed)
To avoid confusion and double counting, these charts are updated at the conclusion of a tournament or when the player's participation has ended.

Singles[edit]

Current through the 2019 Indian Wells Masters.

Tournament 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 SR W–L
Grand Slam tournaments
Australian Open A A Q2 2R 1R QF 0 / 3 5–3
French Open A 1R Q3 1R 1R 0 / 3 0–3
Wimbledon A A Q1 2R 3R 0 / 2 3–2
US Open Q1 1R 1R 1R 2R 0 / 4 1–4
Win–Loss 0–0 0–2 0–1 2–4 3–4 4–1 0 / 12 9–12
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
Indian Wells Masters A A 2R 1R 1R 1R 0 / 4 1–4
Miami Open A A A 2R 4R 0 / 2 4–2
Monte-Carlo Masters A A A A A 0 / 0 0–0
Madrid Open A A A A A 0 / 0 0–0
Italian Open A A A A 1R 0 / 1 0–1
Canadian Open A A A 1R 3R 0 / 2 2–2
Cincinnati Masters A Q1 A 3R 1R 0 / 2 2–2
Shanghai Masters A A A 2R 1R 0 / 2 1–2
Paris Masters A A A A 2R 0 / 1 1–1
Win–Loss 0–0 0–0 1–1 4–5 6–7 0–1 0 / 14 11–14
National representation
Davis Cup A A A A SF 0 / 1 0–2
Career statistics
Tournaments 1 5 6 17 24 6 59
Titles / Finals 0 / 0 0 / 0 0 / 0 0 / 0 1 / 2 0 / 0 1 / 2
Overall Win–Loss 0–1 1–5 1–6 7–17 28–26 5–6 42–61
Year-end ranking 1145 176 108 79 39 41%

Doubles[edit]

Tournament 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 SR W–L
Grand Slam tournaments
Australian Open A A A A 1R A 0 / 1 0–1
French Open A A A 1R 1R 0 / 2 0–2
Wimbledon A A A 1R 1R 0 / 2 0–2
US Open 2R A A A A 0 / 1 1–1
Win–Loss 1–1 0–0 0–0 0–2 0–3 0–0 0 / 6 1–6
Career statistics
Titles / Finals 0 / 0 0 / 0 0 / 0 0 / 1 0 / 0 0 / 0 0 / 1
Overall Win–Loss 1–1 0–1 0–1 3–3 4–9 1–1 9–16
Year-end ranking 536 N/A 684 367 186 36%

Record against top 10 players[edit]

Tiafoe's match record against players who have been ranked in the top 10. Only ATP Tour main draw and Davis Cup matches are considered.

* As of 11 March 2019

Top 10 wins[edit]

Season 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 Total
Wins 0 0 1 1 1 3
# Player Rank Event Surface Rd Score Tiafoe
Rank
2017
1. Germany Alexander Zverev 7 Cincinnati, United States Hard 2R 4–6, 6–3, 6–4 87
2018
2. Argentina Juan Martín del Potro 10 Delray Beach, United States Hard 2R 7–6(8–6), 4–6, 7–5 91
2019
3. South Africa Kevin Anderson 6 Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia Hard 2R 4–6, 6–4, 6–4, 7–5 39

References[edit]

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