Don’t look now, but Frances Tiafoe is the next big name in men’s American tennis. His arrival comes at a time when the sport is severely lacking star power in the United States. With Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori, and Stan Wawrinka headlining the men’s tour the lack of an American superstar hasn’t gone unnoticed.
The last time an American male won a Grand Slam title was back at the 2003 U.S. Open, when Andy Roddick won the prestigious event. Since Roddick’s retirement in 2012, no American male has made it past a Grand Slam quarterfinal.
The current crop of USA talent is far from dominant. John Isner, Jack Sock and Donald Young have done very little to bring prestige back to the men’s game. That’s why Tiafoe is so critical to the growth of American male tennis.
The 17-year-old is being called the best American prospect since Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. Tiafoe is going to compete in his first major at the 2015 French Open, and despite being a wild card for the event, might be the most intriguing amongst all of the male competitors.
He was able to advance to the French Open by going 12-3 at the Sarasota Savannah and Tallahassee qualifiers. As a result he will be the youngest American man to participate in the draw since Michael Chang in 1989. He gained national attention when he became the youngest player to win the Orange Bowl, and was ranked as the top seed at the French Open junior tournament a year ago.
“I’ve focused on staying tough and always competing; to never give up,” Tiafoe told Josh Meiseles. “That’s a good trait since a young age. To go for your shots and take more risk. It pays off in the game today. Grinding only gets you so far. You get a good look and you have to go for it. You have to keep going. I’m improving, but I haven’t accomplished what I want to do in tennis yet.”
It might take time for the College Park, Maryland native to fully grow into his game, but rest assured he is going to assert himself as the next great American male tennis star.