Upset Over On-Fire Alexander Zverev
19-year-old American Frances Tiafoe shocked the tennis world on Wednesday. He came back from a set down to defeat the young German sensation Alexander Zverev 4-6 6-3 6-4. Zverev is one of only three players this season to win either a Major or Masters 1000, the other two being legends Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Just last week in Montreal, he handed Federer his first loss in six finals this season. Zverev looked tough for anyone to beat, rising to World #7, and was considered a favorite along with Nadal to win in an injury-depleted field in Cincinnati. Tiafoe had other plans. Already being a large underdog, and losing all six sets he had played against Zverev in 2017, he stepped on the court with nothing to lose.
Two players with powerful groundstrokes proved for an exciting tennis match. However, the 6’6″ Zverev lacked his usual dominance on serve. The players traded breaks in the first set before Zverev was able to capture a second break and take the set. Tiafoe’s return game become truly incredible, as he secured three breaks of serve off of the rarely-broken Zverev in the second set to even the match. They once again each had a break of serve in the deciding set. Tiafoe broke a second time and completed his victory, by far the biggest of his career. Only 1-12 against the top 50 before this match, this victory was massive for his confidence and popularity. Beating a top 10 player in the world on American soil shows Tiafoe can perform on big stages, and in front of a crowd on his side.
Who is Frances Tiafoe?
Tiafoe grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents came to the United States from Sierra Leone, and his father helped build a tennis center as a laborer close to the family home, where Frances trained growing up. He made a name for himself with many match wins on the junior circuit, including the U18 National Championship in 2015. He generally plays baseline tennis, with his powerful groundstrokes, mainly his forehand, being the primary strength of his game. In 2016, he won his first ATP match at Indian Wells against fellow young American Taylor Fritz. He then played one of the most exciting matches of the season, falling in a battle in the third set tiebreaker to David Goffin. He spent most of the year playing on the Challenger Tour circuit, and reached a top 100 ranking in October.
Tiafoe picked up 2017 right where he left off the previous year, winning his first career match at a Grand Slam in the Australian Open. While continuing to jump between tour events and Challengers, he picked up points and continued to climb in the rankings. After his first win over a top 50 player, defeating Robin Haase at Wimbledon, later in July he reached his career best ranking of 60th in the world. He currently sits at 9th in the Race to Milan, a ranking of the top players 21 years of age and under. At age 19, this shows that he has a promising few years ahead of him. If this success continues, he may very well follow the path of Alexander Zverev and use his impressive skill set to quickly rise in the rankings and rack up win after win.
What is Next
As previously mentioned, Tiafoe has shown that he is one of the primary young stars in American tennis, and in world tennis. As many young players, he has not always been able to beat lower ranked players, even after beating top players. This inconsistency should get better with maturity. Additionally, he has played many matches this year to gain experience and ranking. A heavy schedule accomplishes those goals, but it also takes a toll on a player physically and mentally. Once Tiafoe gets a more comfortable spot in the rankings, he can pick his schedule more carefully and secure more victories.
Frances Tiafoe has talent and potential, and is a name tennis fans should remember because he will be making even more of a name for himself soon.
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