Twelve months ago he was the ‘next big thing’ in tennis. Today, Frances Tiafoe has well and truly arrived on the world stage, winning his first title on the ATP tour earlier this year at Delray Beach after he upset Juan Martin del Potro, Hyeon Chung and Denis Shapovalov en route to the claiming the championships match against German Peter Gojowczyk.
The son of Frances Snr and Alphina, who are immigrants from Sierra Leone, Frances developed his game at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in Maryland. His father had helped build the facility and later became its Head of Maintenance. As children, he and twin brother Franklin would spend entire days with his father at the center and Frances took to the court at every opportunity. Development was quick for young Frances, who won the prestigious Orange Bowl at age 15 and earned a wildcard to compete in the 2015 French Open.
Growing up with the likes of Federer and Juan Martin del Potro as his idols, Tiafoe now competes alongside those players with a sense of belonging. Tiafoe has halved his ranking in a season where he has increasingly threatened higher-ranked players. He ousted world No.11 Pablo Carreno Busto to reach the Estoril quarterfinals, No. 13 Tomas Berdych in the third round at Miami and No.29 Milos Raonic at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, falling in a third-set tight tiebreaker to Grigor Dimitrov in the round of 16. No slouch on grass either, he made the third round at Wimbledon and narrowly fell in five sets to Karen Khachanov, and the quarterfinals at Queens.
Winner: Delray Beach
QF: New York Open, Queen’s
R16: Dallas, Miami, Houston, Geneva, Atlanta, Washington, Toronto