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Tiafoe making good on promises at Wimbledon

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LONDON — Frances Tiafoe remembers promising to his parents before he was even a teenager that tennis would change their lives.

As his talent for the sport became obvious at the tennis center in Maryland where his father was a maintenance worker – and lived with his family in an office that served as their apartment – Tiafoe vowed he would use his abilities to better their circumstances.

“I told them when I was about 11, 12 years old, this is what it was going to be,” Tiafoe said Tuesday, sitting in an interview room at the All England Club after a first-round win at Wimbledon. “You guys just have to sit back and wait for it.”

Wait no longer. The now 20-year-old Tiafoe is on the verge of breaking into the top 50 in the rankings. He already has reached a level where his income from the sport has taken his parents a long way from the struggles they faced after arriving in the United States as immigrants from Sierra Leone.

“I’ve still got a long way to go,” Tiafoe said. “But I said, `Look, I’m going to change everybody’s life, I’m going to buy you all a house. I’m going to do X, Y, and Z, and everybody’s going to live nice at the end of my career and no one is going to have to worry about anything.’ `’

If he keeps playing the way he did against Fernando Verdasco – a former Wimbledon quarterfinalist seeded 30th – they won’t have to worry at all.

Tiafoe beat Verdasco 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-3 after outplaying the Spaniard on the key points. The American saved 13 of the 15 break points he faced while converting two of the only four he had himself.

“I played to win when it was time to step up,” he said.

Tiafoe has been stepping up all his life. Even though his parents weren’t as sure as he was that tennis was the answer.

“My dad always believed me,” Tiafoe said. “My mom, she wanted me to go to college, (and said) you can do whatever you want after that. I said, it’s not going to go down like that. … There was one plan and that was it. There was no Plan B because that just distracts you from Plan A. I had a vision, and I wanted it every day. I dream chased every day. There was always a purpose to what I was doing on the court, because it’s not about me at the end of the day. Because my parents, they sacrificed for me and my brother, and I had to do it for them.”

His mom, Alphina, didn’t seem unhappy about her son’s career choice as she watched him play on Court 11 on Tuesday.

“That’s my little boy,” she shouted as he wrapped up the victory.

Zverev beats Djokovic to win ATP Finals title

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LONDON — Alexander Zverev upset Novak Djokovic to claim the biggest title of his career with a 6-4, 6-3 victory at the ATP Finals on Sunday.

The 21-year-old Zverev became the youngest champion of the season-ending event since Djokovic claimed the first of his five titles a decade ago, and the first from Germany since 1995.

Top-ranked Djokovic was attempting to tie Roger Federer’s record of six titles but followed the same path as the Swiss great, who lost to Zverev in the semifinals at the O2 Arena.

Djokovic’s serve hadn’t been broken all tournament until the final. Zverev did it once in the first set and three times in the second, completing the victory with a spectacular backhand winner up the line.

Both players began the match in the same form that had seen them earn straight-sets semifinal victories a day earlier, with few points going against the server.

It was Djokovic, who had lost just two of his previous 37 matches, who began to feel the pressure as consecutive forehand errors gave Zverev a chance to serve out the opening set at 5-4.

Fans gave Zverev a huge ovation as he stepped up to serve, and it appeared to inspire him. Three straight aces brought up three set points, the second of which he took when Djokovic sent another forehand long.

Zverev even began to outlast Djokovic in longer rallies, an area of the game the 14-time Grand Slam champion usually dominates. A 26-shot duel brought up another break point in the opening game of the second set and, although Djokovic saved it, Zverev won another lengthy exchange moments later with a forehand winner to go 1-0 up.

With the biggest win of his career in sight, Zverev began to show some nerves. Although he is the only active player outside of the Big Four of Djokovic, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray to possess three or more Masters titles, the young German has only reached one Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Two double faults and two backhand errors gifted Djokovic an immediate break back, but Zverev quickly refocused to win a 28-shot rally on his way to breaking in the following game.

From there he remained solid on serve, before ending with a flourish. Having been pushed wide, a backhand winner on the run drifted past the helpless Djokovic.

Zverev sunk to the ground in tears as Djokovic sportingly crossed the net to embrace the player who will now be considered among the favorites to end the Serb’s run of two consecutive Grand Slam victories in Australia in two months’ time.

Earlier, American pair Mike Bryan and Jack Sock saved a match point in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 5-7, 6-1, 13-11 for their first ATP Finals doubles title together.

Having failed to take advantage of five championship points during the first-to-10 match tiebreaker, Bryan and Sock then had to save one against their French opponents before finally closing out victory.

“It was a hell of a match,” Bryan said.

The 40-year-old Bryan has now won the tournament five times. He won four times with his usual partner – and brother – Bob, who has been out with an injured hip since May.

Sock and Bryan have dominated since teaming up, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open before finishing their season in style in London.

“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Bryan said. “This could be our last hoorah because Bob’s training back in Florida.”

Bryan, Sock win ATP Finals doubles title

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LONDON — American pair Mike Bryan and Jack Sock saved a match point in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 5-7, 6-1, 13-11 for their first ATP Finals doubles title together on Sunday.

Having failed to take advantage of five championship points during the first-to-10 match tiebreaker, Bryan and Sock then had to save one against their French opponents before finally closing out victory at the O2 Arena.

“It was a hell of a match,” Bryan said.

The 40-year-old Bryan has now won the season-ending tournament five times. He won four times with his usual partner – and brother – Bob, who has been out with an injured hip since May.

Sock and Bryan have dominated since teaming up, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open before finishing their season in style in London.

“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Bryan said. “This could be our last hoorah because Bob’s training back in Florida.”

After reaching the singles semifinals last year, Sock has endured a torrid season in that format, falling outside the top-100 ranked players. However, he became the first American since John McEnroe to add a doubles final appearance at the tournament to his last-four singles showing.

“This is special because it was a pretty bad year in singles,” Sock said. “This makes up for some of the low moments I’ve had.”

The French duo’s season is not over yet. Herbert and Mahut are part of their nation’s squad for the Davis Cup final against Croatia, which starts in Lille on Friday.