Frances Tiafoe arrives by winning first title in Delray Beach
This past weekend, Frances Tiafoe became the youngest American since Andy Roddick to win an ATP title at the Delray Beach Open. Tiafoe defeated German, Peter Gojowczyk, handily, in straight sets 6-1, 6-4 to take home the trophy. With that win Tiafoe was able to show the world that in a class of young Americans such as Taylor Fritz, Jared Donaldson and Reilly Opelka, he is a force to be reckoned with.
All tournament long, Tiafoe wore a Maryland college sweatshirt, showing love to his hometown College Park, Maryland. By now most know the story of Frances. The son of immigrants who escaped a civil war in Sierra Leone to come to the U.S. and strive for the American dream. Frances father helped construct the junior tennis facility in College Park. He would often take Frances and his twin brother to work overnight. Eventually curiosity got the best of Frances and started to play. A tennis coach saw the potential in Frances and the rest was history.
On the junior circuit it was obvious how athletic Tiafoe was. His lightning quick speed allowed him to stay in long rallies and it carried him all the way to the number two ranking. But as many other junior players have learned, the professional tour is a different animal. Frances struggled to garner wins on the pro tour, regulating him to play most of his matches on the challenger and future level (the minors leagues of tennis). Frances did manage to win four titles on the challenger circuit but that still didn’t translate the ATP tour.
A large part of Frances lack of success has been his knack for drawing top players. On the tour Frances would come across top names like Roger Federer, David Goffin, John Isner, Sam Querrey in either the first or second round. This was all assuming he made it pass qualifying rounds, which in itself is a daunting task. Frances faced another daunting task at the Delay Open when he would have to face the second seed, Juan Martin Del Potro, his idol growing up. But this time he would come out instead.
It was a seesaw match that saw Frances gain control then lose it again. It was neck in neck in the final set but unlike the past, Frances was able to walk away with the win. From there he faced and defeated his Next Gen peers Hyeon Chung in the quarters, whom he had to defeat over the course of two days due to a rain delay and Denis Shapovalov in the semis.
After winning the championship, Frances thank his team, including his father and said “Now I’m in a position not only to help myself, but help fund my family. It’s an unbelievable place to be in, and it’s bigger than tennis.”