WASHINGTON D.C. – One of tennis’ most hyped prospects, Hyattsville native Frances Tiafoe, put his skills on display against French journeyman Adrian Mannarino late Monday night at the Citi Open at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center. Tiafoe fell 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 in front of his hometown fans and family after a solid start turned disastrous […]
WASHINGTON D.C. – One of tennis’ most hyped prospects, Hyattsville native Frances Tiafoe, put his skills on display against French journeyman Adrian Mannarino late Monday night at the Citi Open at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center.
Tiafoe fell 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 in front of his hometown fans and family after a solid start turned disastrous due to unforced errors. But there is still plenty of promise ahead for the 18-year-old prospect who enjoyed his experience.
“I was looking forward to the Citi Open this year more than any other tournament,” Tiafoe said. “I am thankful for the chance to play in front of my family and friends and I tried to make the most of the opportunity.”
Jeff Newman, who is the tournament director, made sure Tiafoe was given a wild card and the opportunity at home-field advantage.
“Having Frances in the draw is really the best of both worlds for us,” Newman told Shomari Stone of NBC4 DC. “He is a well known tennis player, and an extremely well known tennis player in the D.C. area. From a ticket standpoint, it is a great opportunity for us and also a great story.”
The story is, in fact, a great one for Tiafoe. Growing up, his father, who was from Sierra Leone, was a maintenance worker for the Junior Tennis Champions Centre near Washington, D.C. It is where Frances and his twin brother called home as they slept on a massage table when they had no other place to go.
Through his perseverance and hard work, Tiafoe became a tennis prodigy at 15 when he became the youngest player ever to win the Orange Bowl (the most prestigious 18-and-under tournament in tennis). From there, the prodigy grew into a prospect and has become a very humble and happy young man at just 18 years of age.
The crowd had died down drastically by the time Tiafoe took to the court after a lengthy rain delay pushed the start time to his match from 8:30 p.m. to past 11 p.m. But regardless of the circumstances, Tiafoe was still determined to come out with a win.
“It’s unbelievable playing here. I had goose bumps and was really excited and ready to go,” he said.
The first set was a tightly contested, back-and-forth match until Tiafoe pulled ahead with his powerful serve and recorded seven aces in the first set. Mannarino, being the veteran that he is, did not panic and chipped away at the lead Tiafoe had built and pushed the first set into a tiebreaker. Mannarino would take the tie breaker and the set, 7-6 (7-4).
In the second set, Tiafoe again exploded into a 3-0 lead. However, Mannarino weathered that storm as well. Tiafoe continuously kept making mental errors and they ended up costing him the match in straight sets. Only Tiafoe knows the cause of his errors, but the match was one he could’ve easily won in straight sets. Still, he had no reason to hang his head and intends to learn from his mistakes.
“Hard work is everything. Talent only takes you so far and if you believe it you can do it,” he said. “Never let anyone say you can’t do something because nothing is impossible. I’m here doing what I’m doing now, so nothing is impossible.”
Mannarino advances to face the fifth-ranked Steve Johnson in the second round.