Two weeks ago, Frances Tiafoe hadn’t reached an ATP World Tour quarter-final. Now he’s an ATP World Tour titlist. The 20-year-old right-hander became the youngest American to win an ATP World Tour title since 19-year-old Andy Roddick at 2002 Houston, and he had to take the hard route to his maiden trophy.
Tiafoe beat Aussie Matthew Ebden, who had beaten him earlier this year, then childhood idol and World No. 10 Juan Martin del Potro and Australian Open semi-finalist Hyeon Chung. In the semi-finals, the #NextGenATP American beat #NextGenATP Denis Shapovalov, and in Sunday’s final, Tiafoe outplayed 2017 Metz titlist Peter Gojowczyk of Germany.
After his triumph, Tiafoe talked with ATPWorldTour.com about the career accomplishment.
How does it feel to win your first ATP World Tour title?
Unbelievable feeling. I’m just happy I got it done so early in my career, so I can get that off my back. A lot of quality players don’t have titles so it’s an unbelievable feeling. I’m happy to get it done. Now onto the next, really enjoy these next couple of days and then get back on the horse, turn the page and get ready for Indian Wells.
Your dad’s been in Delray Beach all week. How special is it to share this moment with him?
He’s ecstatic. He’s done so much for me and my brother and just the whole family in general. Everything I’m doing now is returning the favour. I’m just really happy about the way I’m playing, how I’ve grown as a person, because that’s what matters the most, and how humble I’ve stayed throughout the process. And I think all those traits have been from him.
You mentioned your brother. Have you spoken to Franklin yet?
No, I haven’t spoken with anybody yet. So I’m pretty excited to get on the phone and talk with some of these guys.
You’ve been walking onto the court with a University of Maryland hoodie all week. What does College Park [his home city] mean to you?
I just love that whole area, the whole DMV [nickname for the District, Maryland, Virginia area of the U.S.]. I rep it. Right now I’m wearing a shirt, ‘Rep Your City’. I’m just really in love with where I’m from, and that whole area has done so much for me. You just want to rep it as much as possible…. I’ve been hanging out a lot in [Washington] D.C., and it’s an amazing place.
Read More: #NextGenATP Tiafoe’s Big Breakthrough
There are six 20-year-old Americans in the Top 200. You were the last of the six to reach a quarter-final, but you are the first of the six to win a title. How do you explain that?
I really don’t know. It’s an unbelievable turnaround. I wasn’t expecting this this week. I was just going to go and play Delpo in the second round. I did, and beat some quality players along the way and happy to get it done this week.
You came into New York last week, you had nine tour-level wins. Now the last two weeks you’ve added seven to the nine. What’s been clicking in your game?
Serving great. Competing really well. Not really playing so many loose points. Playing my game, playing aggressive and competing just each and every point and not letting guys really just roll over me. I’m staying tough, I think that’s big.
You mentioned Del Potro, your childhood hero. You had lost to him twice before. You finally beat him on Thursday. Did you feel after that match that this could be your title?
Yeah, I felt like [Hyeon] Chung was beatable. I felt like I could beat him, then [Denis] Shapovalov. Seeing that [John] Isner lost and [Jack] Sock lost. I felt like it was opening up and it did, and here I am.
More than half of your main-draw matches at all levels – Futures, Challengers, ATP World Tour – have gone to a deciding set, including three this week. What does that say about you and your game?
Unbelievable. It seems like I get down to the wire pretty often. Just competing. I love being out there. I love competing. I really don’t know. It kind of just happens.
You’re the youngest American to win a title since 19-year-old Andy Roddick at 2002 Houston. Could you have ever envisioned your first title at age 20?
No, no. I always wanted to win my first title in D.C.. That would have been great. But now it’s here, and I’m really happy about it.
Now that you’ve got the title. What are your goals for the rest of the season?
To get more. Why not? To get more in the 250s, 500s. Go deep in the Masters 1000s, have some runs at Slams. I want to end the year inside the Top 30… Now I feel like I’m back in the mix again. My game’s back. Rough start to the season, but now I’m back. Now I’ve played more matches, I’m feeling more confident. So sky’s the limit for me.