31 Aug 2014

Tiafoe delights home crowd at Flushing Meadows

Match Report

By Simon Cambers

Photo: Fred and Susan MullaneFrancis Tiafoe (USA)

Few juniors have been the subject of more hype than Francis Tiafoe in recent years but the 16-year-old American began his bid for the boys’ title with a convincing win on Sunday and then said he felt better prepared to deal with expectation.

Tiafoe has been hailed as the next big thing ever since he won the Orange Bowl in December 2013 and admits that at first, he was guilty of believing his own hype.

“I used to (read everything people wrote about him),” sixth seed Tiafoe said after a confident 62 63 win over Chan-yeong Oh of Korea in a match played in hot and humid conditions.

“The Fox, Morning America, all that stuff, I was looking at that a lot, and it probably had me a little big-headed, I’ll admit. But now I stay away from it as much as possible. I couldn’t care less, really. 

“I have to keep preparing the same way for each match, stay professional. At the end of the day, none of that really matters. It’s good publicity for me, getting my name out there but I want to be a pro and there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Tiafoe is considered the leading light in a generation of promising American players and says he will learn from how he handled himself at the French Open and Wimbledon, where he was beaten before the last eight.

“The French was bad. I was so tight, my first slam other than the (US) Open,” he said. “Going in as the No. 1 seed, I was playing well. It was tough, a little disappointing. 

“Wimbledon wasn’t bad. I played a good match against (Noah) Rubin and Rubin won (the title). Respect to him, he’s been playing great. 

“Here, we’ll see. Today I played a pretty good match and I’ll hopefully keep it rolling. Winning a round in doubles qualifying definitely helped me. I’ve been playing great since. I learned a lot from that match. I’ve been playing pretty well the last couple of weeks and hopefully I am looking for a run here.”

While Tiafoe cruised through to round two, another American, Henrik Wiersholm, did things the hard way, overcoming illness, dehyrdration and cramping to edge out Joao Menezes of Brazil 62 67 63.

“That was the worst I’ve ever felt on a tennis court,” said Wiersholm, who had warmed up with Frenchman Gilles Simon in the morning.

“I woke up with a sore throat and had diarrhoea and was feeling terrible. I felt OK through the first set but in the second set, it wasn’t just exhaustion, I felt like I had to puke, it was terrible. 

“The heat was definitely a factor; it was the dehydration before it and then the heat afterwards. It was a situation where literally I felt like I was dying.

“I was just playing one-hit points. I got a second wind at 3-3 in the third set and I thought I’m just going to find a way. It was definitely very satisfying. I should get a day off tomorrow and that will be huge. I’m confident that it will definitely change (for the better).”

Kelly Chen continued the American success story with an up and down 60 67 60 victory over Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia.

Chen said she’d been inspired by the performance of 15-year-old CiCi Bellis, who beat Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova in the women’s singles. 

“CiCi is doing really well, she’s the No 2 in the world and so if she can do it, I think I can do it too,” she said. “It just takes hard work. It’s definitely an inspiration. I played her a couple of times, she’s really good. I think if I just work harder I can do it.”

“I was actually pretty nervous the whole time, it was a bit overwhelming. But I like the crowd watching me and supporting me, it’s a good feeling.”

Michaela Gordon was another American winner on day one but top seed Andrey Rublev of Russia made light of another, crushing Dennis Uspensky 63 60 and fifth seed Quentin Halys ended another's hopes, seeing off Aron Hiltzik 75 63.

Australia's Marc Polmans was among the other winners but in the girls' event Hungary's Ana Bondar saw off fifth seed Kristina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 63 36 63.

But sixth seed Jil Teichmann of Switzerland fended off the challenge of Britain's Isabelle Wallace 63 76.