First final nerves? Not for Frances Tiafoe. The 20-year-old American coasted to his first ATP World Tour title on Sunday, beating German Peter Gojowczyk of Germany 6-1, 6-4 at the Delray Beach Open. Tiafoe becomes the youngest American to win an ATP World Tour title since 19-year-old Andy Roddick at 2002 Houston, and his maiden crown caps off the best two weeks of his career.
Before last week’s New York Open, Tiafoe had won nine tour-level matches (9-31) and had never reached a tour-level quarter-final. But after reaching the last eight in New York (l. to Anderson) and triumphing in Delray Beach, Tiafoe almost doubled his tour-level win count (16) in two weeks.
“I just can’t believe it. A lot’s going through my mind. If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I was going to win a title at 20 years old, I probably would have laughed. It’s unbelievable,” Tiafoe said.
In South Florida, the #NextGenATP American had to beat World No. 10 Juan Martin del Potro and Australian Open semi-finalist Hyeon Chung, who is the reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion. In the semi-finals, Tiafoe knocked out #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who was also seeking his first first tour-level final.
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Gojowczyk, however, had been a tricky opponent for Americans all week. The German had beaten a trio of Tiafoe’s compatriots – John Isner, Reilly Opelka and Steve Johnson – to make his second ATP World Tour final (2017 Metz, d. Paire).
But the German was slow to start on Sunday. Tiafoe rattled off his service games with ease, and he smacked a forehand return winner to gain a double-break lead at 4-0. Gojowcyzk had his left hamstring wrapped during the 5-0 changeover, but Tiafoe didn’t slow down, taking the first set after 25 minutes when Gojowcyzk slapped a forehand return long.
The 28-year-old German improved his level in the second set, keeping more balls in play. But almost every time Tiafoe faced pressure on his serve, he was brave and earned the reward for it: his first ATP World Tour title. The 20-year-old fell to the court after a second-serve ace on match point.
He’s the first among a heralded class of #NextGenATP Americans, which includes Opelka and Taylor Fritz, to win an ATP World Tour title. Tiafoe will receive 250 ATP Rankings points and is projected to rise to No. 61 in the ATP Rankings, just one spot off his career high, on Monday. He will also receive $94,280 in prize money. Gojowczyk will receive 150 ATP Rankings points and $49,650 in prize money.
Tiafoe is also projected to climb to second place in the ATP Race To Milan, which will determine seven of the eight players who compete at the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals, to be held 6-10 November in Milan.