Tiafoe Following His Passion Around The Tennis World

WASHINGTON, October 28, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Frances Tiafoe is one of only two Americans playing in the ATP 250 Astana Open in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan this week. As he works toward improving his ranking – currently No. 64 – in hopes of returning to the Top 50, Tiafoe is maturing both as an athlete and as an individual.

Two weeks after losing to Corentin Moutet of France in straight sets at Sardinia on clay, Tiafoe looked solid in his 6-3, 6-2 win over the 74th-ranked Moutet on an indoor hard court Monday evening in Nur-Sultan, the capital city of Kazakhstan. He hit 24 winners, broke the young French player four times in five opportunities and his serve was in danger only two times. Tiafoe never trailed during the one hour and 22-minute match on Center Court at the National Tennis Center.

“I played really well tonight,” Tiafoe, a 22-year-old native of Hyattsville, Md., said Monday during an on-court interview. “I was really intense from the beginning. … I am just happy I came and took care of business.”

Tiafoe started the year ranked 47th after reaching a career-high of No. 29 on Feb. 11, 2019. In an effort to build up his ranking, which earlier this year dipped to No. 84 on Feb. 17, he’s split his time between playing in ATP Tour-level events and ATP Challenger tournaments.

“The season post the pandemic has been good for me, so far,” Tiafoe said during an interview with Kazakh TV journalist Dinara Baikadamova. “It’s great to be competing again and although the circumstances are still tough, it feels nice to get back to the game I love so much. It’s been a pretty good year so far, although at the beginning of the year I lost points and that was tough. But now I’m getting back steadily.”

Since reaching the round of 16 at the US Open, Tiafoe played a Challenger in Forli, Italy, reaching the second round. Then, after losing a tough, five-set first round match to Jan-Lennard Struff at the French Open, he strung together five straight wins on clay in Parma, Italy, to capture a Challenger title. Since then, Tiafoe has played in consecutive weeks in Sardinia, Antwerp and now Nur-Sultan.

Tiafoe’s win-loss record during this pandemic-shortened season improved to 18-14 following his second-round, 7-5, 6-3 victory over No. 2 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, ranked 40th.

“Miomir is one of my better friends on Tour,” Tiafoe said Monday, as quoted by the ATP Tour website. “He is a year younger than me and we have had a couple of good matches before.” 

Indeed they have, as Kecmanovic prevailed in a three-set battle in Newport Beach, Calif., on a hard court in January 2018 and Tiafoe won a straight-setter last year at the Miami Open, also on a hard court surface. With Wednesday’s victory, Tiafoe leads their career head-to-head 2-1.

“He has been playing really good,” Tiafoe said, continuing his praise of Kecmanovic, whose 17-12 win-loss record includes a title won at Kitzbuhel last month. “He is around his career high right now and I am climbing back. Obviously, we wouldn’t usually play in the second round of an ATP 250, but it is the way it is right now. It is going to be a really good match.”

Tiafoe hit seven aces, won 77 percent of his service points, broke Kecmanovic’s serve four times in 10 tries and outpointed him 79-56 to reach the quarterfinal round.

Tiafoe is a proven example of one who can achieve anything with a positive mind set. “My advice would be to follow your passion,” he said. “Try to be a better person than you were a day before. Stop worrying about the results and try to enjoy and love the process.”

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Passing shots

• With his first-round victory Tuesday, defending champion Dominic Thiem has won 10 straight matches in Austria including titles in 2019 at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna and the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel.

• When 24th-ranked Borna Coric faces World No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic on Wednesday in Vienna, he will be attempting to achieve his 10th Top 5 win and the first of his career against Djokovic.

• Djokovic will clinch the year-end No. 1 ranking this week if he wins the ATP 500 Vienna title. However, if he doesn’t, it remains a possibility that World No. 2 Rafael Nadal can end the year at No. 1 if he takes a wild card into the ATP 250 event in Sofia, Bulgaria, Nov. 8-14.