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Tiafoe wins first career ATP title at Delray Beach

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DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Frances Tiafoe won the Delray Beach Open, with father Frances Sr. watching, on Sunday for his first ATP Tour title.

The 91st-ranked Tiafoe, the first wild-card recipient to win the title in its 26-year history, had consecutive aces on the final two points for a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Peter Gojowczyk of Germany.

At 20, Tiafoe is the youngest American to win a title since Andy Roddick at 19 in 2002 in Houston.

Tiafoe fell on his back in celebration and cried as he hugged his father.

“Now I’m in a position not only to help myself, but help fund my family,” Tiafoe said. “It’s an unbelievable place to be in and it’s bigger than tennis.”

Tiafoe’s parents moved from Sierra Leone to the United States looking for a better life. The elder Tiafoe ended up working as a maintenance worker at a Maryland tennis club where the American-born Frances fell in love with the game. His twin brother, Franklin, wasn’t interested in the sport.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Frances Sr., who now frequently travels the tour with his son. “I told them since they were little, work hard and you can achieve your goal. I told him whatever you put your mind to you can do it.”

Tiafoe, who should move up to approximately No. 61 in Monday’s new rankings, was playing in his first career tour-level final at Delray Beach. He entered last week’s New York Open, where he reached the quarterfinals, with nine total career ATP tour-level match victories.

In this last two-weeks he has won seven tour matches. Among those recent victories is a second-round win over 10th-ranked Juan Martin del Potro this week.

Tiafoe was the last American to defeat the German, which took place at the 2016 Winnetka, Illinois Challenger event.

“I told you guys I was going to get him,” said Tiafoe, laughing. “All the guys were texting me, `You have to take him out.”‘

Gojowczyk had beaten his eight previous American opponents in ATP tour-level matches, including sixth-seeded John Isner, Reilly Opelka and Steve Johnson this week.

Overall, Gojowczyk had beaten the last 14 American players he faced in tour and non tour-level matches since that Winnetka loss to Tiafoe.

Gojowczyk was bothered by a left hamstring, which he said started during his semifinal against Johnson.

“It was not my day actually today,” Gojowczyk said. “But still it was a good week and I reached my career high (projected ranking of) 51 with this tournament.

“You want to compete, to go for the shots. And you want to play your best in the final.”

The first time Gojowczyk called for the trainer to wrap his thigh was when he was about to serve with Tiafoe leading 5-0 in the first set.

Federer beats Kyrgios as Europe wins first Laver Cup

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PRAGUE — Roger Federer rallied to beat Nick Kyrgios 4-6, 7-6 (6), 11-9 Sunday and clinch the new Laver Cup tournament for Europe on Sunday.

The three-day competition at Prague’s O2 Arena pitted a team of the best six European players against the top six from the rest of the world.

Seen by some as a tennis version of the Ryder Cup in golf, the inaugural Laver Cup was played on an unusual black hard court.

Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem and Tomas Berdych also formed the European team, while Sam Querrey, John Isner, Jack Sock, Denis Shapovalov and Frances Tiafoe played for the world.

The tournament is to honor Rod Laver, an 11-time major champion who won two calendar-year Grand Slams.

Chicago will host it in 2018.

Frances Tiafoe among young Americans coming of age in Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) More than 13 years after Andy Roddick won the 2003 U.S. Open, the last time an American man triumphed at a Grand Slam, the future of U.S. men’s tennis appears bright.

The next generation of young players, all aged between 18 and 20, is starting to emerge and showing enough promise at this year’s Australian Open to suggest they may be on the cusp of a breakthrough.

Seven made the main draw at Melbourne Park and three were still in contention after the first round.

Frances Tiafoe, who turns 19 on Friday, defeated Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-2 on Tuesday, while 20-year-old Ernesto Escobedo beat Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1. They joined 20-year-old Noah Rubin, who won his opener a day earlier to set up a second-round match against Roger Federer.

The others failed to advance, but not before serving notice to the tour’s old guard.

Reilly Opelka, 19, lost a tight five-setter to 11th-seeded David Goffin, while Jared Donaldson, 20, lost to Brazil’s Rogerio Dutra Silva after leading two sets to none. Taylor Fritz and Michael Mmoh, both 19, each put up good fights in defeats to veterans Gilles Muller and Gilles Simon, respectively.

“We’re all really supportive of each other and happy to see all of us doing so well,” Tiafoe said. “Hopefully we can keep going and not stop now.”

Much has been expected of Tiafoe, the son of immigrants from Sierra Leone, since he won the Orange Bowl at age 15, the youngest champion in the prestigious 18-and-under tournament’s history.

Tiafoe just missed out on a career-defining win at last year’s U.S. Open, where as a wild card, he led the long-time top-ranked U.S. player, John Isner, by two sets to none before the match slipped away. It was a heartbreaking loss, but one Tiafoe learned from.

“I was like, the next opportunity I’m definitely going to take it,” he said after his first-round win on Tuesday, flashing a wide grin. “Now, getting through relatively comfortable today means a lot. … I really feel like I belong now.”

He next plays another 19-year-old, his close friend, Alexander Zverev of Germany.

Both Opelka and Donaldson, meanwhile, got their own tastes of Grand Slam agony in Melbourne.

Opelka, a 6-foot-11 (2.11 meter) former Wimbledon junior champion with a booming serve and whip-like forehand, had two break points to go up 4-2 in the fifth set against Goffin, but couldn’t convert either and ultimately lost 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

Opelka had never before played a five-set match and was making his debut in the singles main draw of a Grand Slam. Yet he showed grit – and no hint of nerves – deep into the fifth set against a seasoned pro like Goffin, even as he started to cramp and struggled to move.

“I’ve played some guys in the top 10 before so I wasn’t uncomfortable,” he said. “With the way I play, hopefully it really shouldn’t matter who’s on the other side of the net.”

Donaldson’s loss was less expected. The Rhode Island native made a stunning run to the third round of last year’s U.S. Open, upsetting the 12th-seeded Goffin and Viktor Troicki, a former top-20 player.

And he was well on his way to a commanding win over Dutra Silva before the Brazilian stormed back for a 3-6, 0-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory.

“Losses like this really define your character,” he said. “So I can be upset and sulk about it or I can get back on the practice court and keep working hard and get better so matches like that don’t happen again.”