The youngest American in the Top 50 hopes to continue his climb this summer.
Lost in the post-Wimbledon shuffle, and tucked ever so slightly beneath the radar, a young American cracked a milestone on Monday. That young American would be Frances Tiafoe, who pushed inside the ATP’s Top 50 for the first time thanks to his third-round performance at the Championships.
It was a solid performance from Tiafoe at London, in what has been a solid year, but the fact that he squandered a two sets to love lead in the third round to Karen Khachanov speaks volumes about how far along Tiafoe is in his development. He was criticized for a lack of desire in that match, as he disappeared from the match after dropping a third-set tiebreaker, and he later said he had been experiencing stomach pains. Either way, it's an experience he can–and will have to–learn from. Tiafoe’s at the tip of the iceberg, and yet still, six months shy of his 21st birthday the Maryland native is inside the top 50 and boasting a solid 20-12 record on the season.
Still just 20, he's reached the Top 50 in the world. How @FTiafoe learned to relax and enjoy a summer at home, playing with @WashKastles and at @CitiOpen https://t.co/uz8CXO55rz pic.twitter.com/zBkg8kfg6J
— Noah Frank (@NoahFrankWTOP) July 20, 2018
Tiafoe started the season at 79 in the world, but a maiden career title at Delray Beach (one in which he defeated Juan Martin del Potro and Denis Shapovalov), along with a final at Estoril, has helped him get to where he is now. With just 110 points to defend between now and the end of the U.S. Open, Tiafoe is a run or two away from a spot in the Top 30 and maybe even higher.
As a lot of the attention has been focused—and rightfully so—on teenagers Denis Shapovalov and Stefanos Tsitsipas, Tiafoe has quietly been climbing and is now the fourth highest-ranked American and one of just four players younger than 21 in the ATP’s Top 50.
It’s quite an accomplishment, but one that the World No.45 takes in stride.
“It’s definitely nice, a big milestone for me,” he told Noah Frank of WTOP in Washington earlier this week. “You definitely want to keep building on it. You don’t want to sit here and gloat about it. There are 44 more places I need to go, and I want to go.”
Tiafoe, who took a week off after Wimbledon before joining he Washington Kastles of the WTT this week, will open his US Open Series at the Citi Open in Washington, DC on July 30.
— Chad (@CCSMOOTH13) July 17, 2018
As a local kid, who spent his formative years training at the JTCC in nearby College Park, Maryland, Tiafoe lists the Citi Open as one of the trophies he dearly covets.
“That’s a title I definitely really want to win at least once in my career,” he told Frank. “So I’m always going to go in there and grab it with two hands.”
Tiafoe’s father, Constant, initially worked at the JTCC (Junior Tennis Champion’s Center) on a construction crew that originally built the site, and he stayed on as a head of maintenance. It was natural from there that Frances and his twin brother Franklin, had ample opportunity to hone their skills on the court.
It’s just another part of the story that helps make the easy-going Tiafoe’s story so endearing.
The other part is his ability to deliver on the promise that many saw in him. After losing 10 of his first 11 matches against Top 20 opposition, Tiafoe has won three of his last five. At Wimbledon he reached the third round at a major for the first time in his career, snapping a four-match losing streak at the majors as he upset veterans Fernando Verdasco and Julien Benneteau in back-to-back tilts.
It’s a process for all young players and Tiafoe is no exception, but all signs are pointing to a bright future, and has he works his way up the rankings his confidence is rising as well.
“I’ve played some great tennis this year,” he told Frank. “I’ve beaten a lot of good guys. I believe in myself. I know if I bring a good level I can beat anyone.”