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Can Tiafoe deliver on his rich promise?

AFRICAN ROOTS: Tiafoe

NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD Frances Tiafoe pushed Grand Slam winner Roger Federer all the
way in a pulsating first round five-set thriller on Arthur Ashe at the recent US Open, eventually losing 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4. Now the world waits to see if the player with African heritage can deliver on his rich promise.

Tiafoe is ranked ninth for the Next Generation ATP tournament in Milan, Italy. This is the end of season finals exhibition event for the top seven players aged 21-and-under. But, who is Frances Tiafoe?

ACE

Tiafoe’s parents Frances Snr and Alphina are from Sierra Leone. They fled the 1991-2002 civil war settling in Maryland, USA. The stylish tennis ace now represents his adopted country when he steps on court. Tiafoe has a twin brother called Franklin.

Frances Snr initially worked as part of the construction crew building the new Junior Tennis Championship Centre in College Park, Maryland. Then, became the facility’s caretaker. As his father carried out his duties, Frances Jnr started hitting balls at the centre age just four and his talent was obvious.

Tiafoe was to confirm his ability when he became the no. 1 ranked junior in the world, winning the 2013 Orange Bowl and reaching the semi-finals of the 2014 United States Open boys’ tournament. Turning professional in 2015 aged 17, he earned a wild card for his Grand Slam debut into the French Open main draw.

He lost his first round match to Slovakian Martin Klizan. Subsequently Tiafoe became the youngest American in the draw since Michael Chang in 1989. Granted a wild card for the 2015 US Open main draw, Tiafoe lost his first-round match to the no.22 seed Viktor Troicki.

At this year’s Australian Open, Tiafoe reached the main draw for the first time through qualifying. He also qualified for the Miami Masters hard court tournament. But Tiafoe won his first round match, falling in the second round to Roger Federer.

The clay court season helped Tiafoe’s ranking to climb to world number 65, by reaching his first doubles final and win- ning two Challenger titles.

DEBUT

He made his Wimbledon debut on grass beating Robin Hasse in the first round. In his next match, top 10 player, Alexander Zverev dismissed Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. However, Tiafoe had an awesome run at the Cincinnati Masters in August, before his epic encounter with Federer at the US Open. Tiafoe is currently ranked 70 in the world.

He has got the tennis world’s attention. But can he keep it?

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