Since Andy Roddick retired from the ATP Tour in 2012, US Men’s tennis has been looking for it’s next Grand Slam winner. There is major buzz about a young player who is only 19 years old and he lives in Rockville.
Meet Frances Tiafoe Jr. He is currently ranked #71 in the world and just gave #2 Roger Federer a huge scare when he took the 19-time Grand Slam singles champion to five sets just a couple of weeks ago during the first round of the US Open before falling 6-4 in the final set.
Born in College Park on January 20, 1998, his parents, Frances Sr. & Alphina, immigrated to the United States from Sierra Leone in Africa. When Frances was just a baby, his father worked as a day laborer. One of his jobs was working with a construction crew responsible for building the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park. Frances Sr. would later be hired as it’s custodian while Frances Jr. started training there at the age of four.
When Frances was 14, he became the youngest man to ever win the prestigious Orange Bowl tournament in Miami, defeating fellow American Stefan Kozlov in three sets.
Nearly two years later, he would again defeat Kozlov at the U18 National Championships, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4 and with that victory, earned a spot into the main draw of the 2015 US Open.
He turned pro on April 6, 2015 and quickly found success in the minor league circuit of the ATP (ATP Challengers and ITF Futures). His first career title come on March 22, 2015 at the F10 United States ITF Futures final, where he defeated Maxime Tabatroung of France, 6-1, 6-2. At the end of 2015, Tiafoe would finish the year ranked 176th in the world.
In 2016 & 2017, he would rise up to the next level to the ATP Challengers and would win another four titles. He ended 2016 ranked 108th in the world and for the second consecutive year would be the highest rank ATP player that was born in 1998.The most recent came on May 14, 2017 when he won a clay court tournament, Open du Pais d’Aix in France, defeating Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in the finals, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(7-5).
Tiafoe reached a career high of #70 the week prior to the US Open. The US men have not had a Grand Slam singles winner since Andy Roddick won the 2003 US Open. Roddick is also the last American man to play for a Grand Slam title (2009 Wimbledon where he lost to Roger Federer 16-14 in the fifth set).
With the raise of fellow young American players like Taylor Fritz, Jack Sock, Jared Donaldson and Ernesto Escobedo, the future looks bright for men’s tennis in the United States.
But wouldn’t it be nice if the next Grand Slam singles champion for the United States would be the first ever, male or female, from the state of Maryland?