Frances Tiafoe: Good Vibrations
Fresh off an electrifying run to the US Open semifinals less than two weeks ago, Frances Tiafoe is in peak condition to help clinch points for Team World at Laver Cup London.
“I love Laver Cup competition,” said Tiafoe, who has risen to a career-high No.19 in singles following his success in New York. “I know what to expect and I think we have a great chance this year of taking the title from Team Europe.”
Coached by South Africa’s Wayne Ferreira, the athletic American brimmed with confidence after taking eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz to a decisive fifth set at the US Open. “I just proved that I can play with the best, and I’m capable of winning Grand Slams,” said Tiafoe.
“I’ve always backed myself against the best players in the world — I’m doing it on a consistent basis, starting to beat guys more readily, ready to take the next step,” said Tiafoe. “I feel like I can win any match.”
How it’s going
Tiafoe, who won his maiden singles title four years ago in Delray Beach, can rejoin the winners’ circle if Team World forges a path to Laver Cup victory.
The American, who was nominated for the ATP Tour’s Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award in 2021, enters this week’s action armed with singles victories over three of the six Team Europe players. He holds bragging rights as the only man to have defeated Rafael Nadal at a major this year, attaining his first win over the Spaniard during their fourth round encounter at Flushing Meadows earlier this month.
“It’s not an easy task,” acknowledged Tiafoe, who followed up his Nadal victory with a crushing straight-sets upset of Andrey Rublev and earlier in the tournament battled past his higher-ranked Team World teammate Diego Schwartzman, also in straight sets.
The 24 year-old has posted 15 of his 2022 season’s 26 wins on hard courts, and is just seven matches shy of tying the personal-best 33 victories he recorded in 2021. If he faces a Laver breaker, Tiafoe will back himself as the favorite: the America is on an unbeaten streak after becoming the first player to win eight US Open tiebreaks.
Off-court, the right-hander has expressed a desire to make a difference in the world. In 2020, he made a video entitled “Racquets Down, Hands Up” to spread awareness about unjust deaths of African-Americans in the United States, which featured players Serena Williams and Coco Gauff.
On playing Laver Cup
The American, competing in his third Laver Cup, is searching for his first singles victory after falling to Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov in Prague in 2017 and Chicago in 2018.
“It’s just kind of like a Davis Cup feel, but even better because it’s among friends and not only for your country,” Tiafoe said in 2017. “Having the likes of John McEnroe next to me giving me tips is definitely unbelievable, something I’ll remember forever.”
Maryland, US-based Tiafoe, who has described his prior Laver Cup outings as an “unbelievable experience”, will once again exchange high fives with teammates including Jack Sock, who is among his closest friends on the ATP Tour.
“Being in a team environment always means a little more…this is an honor for me,” Tiafoe said on his Laver Cup debut. “You feel like you have to really leave it all out there,” he said, adding that huge audiences encourage him to lift his game. “I live for it…if you get a big crowd in front of me, I’m going to play some good tennis.”
“Frances is trending in the right direction, he brings a lot of energy and he’s got some great talent,” Team World Captain John McEnroe said on Tuesday, describing his player’s current form as “hot”.