Tiafoe's talents on display at Metropolia Orange Bowl

December 10, 2013 09:26 AM

RELATED: 2013 Metropolia Orange Bowl homepage

By Pat Mitsch, special to USTA.com
– Watching Francis Tiafoe play tennis, you wonder what’s coming next.
Tiafoe dazzled on Monday in the first round of the 67th Metropolia Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships, easing past his opponent, Mexico’s Rogelio Siller, 6-1, 6-1, at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, Fla.
The wiry 15-year-old already has an easy grace about him on the tennis court. He glides in all directions, covering ground with effortless speed. He uncoils his forehand, quick and powerful. He smiles when he’s been beaten down the line.
Tennis seems to come easily to the College Park, Md., resident, ranked No. 38 in the world among juniors (18-and-under) and seeded 13th in the boys’ 18s draw here. His talent and potential are obvious. Brad Gilbert, the former world No. 4, who has coached Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick, tweeted a photo of Tiafoe mid-serve, calling him “very athletic” with a “nice upside.”
Intangible qualities, though, are what really makes greatness possible for Tiafoe, according to his longtime coach, Frank Salazar, the director of high performance at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md.
“He’s wired a little differently than most players. He’s very confident when he takes the court. He has a lot of self-belief, and he has a lot of feel and understanding for the game,” said Salazar, who coaches Tiafoe, along with Misha Kouznetsov, at the USTA Certified Regional Training Center where Tiafoe practically grew up, as his father worked as the center’s maintenance man.
“Basically, he can’t be a manufactured tennis player, where he’s very robotic out there, because that’s not how he learned to play the game,” Salazar said. “Nor should he play that way because I think that actually dumbs down his innate ability to play the game.”
Salazar remembers when Tiafoe was so young that when he carried a racquet, it would drag on the ground. These days, Tiafoe stands a shade under 6-foot-2 and uses his rangy physique to leverage a big forehand and go for “crazy shots” to baffle opponents.
“I don’t like to be too predictable because then it’s easy to play against you," said Tiafoe, stretching after the match. "I try to be as unpredictable as possible. I like to be pretty creative out there, keep people on their toes.”
While shot selection is an area Tiafoe’s coaches will keep working with him to improve, that creativity, said Salazar, is Tiafoe’s way of “problem solving” on the court, something Salazar said is a part of playing tennis at the highest level.
That’s where Tiafoe seems likely headed, as one of three 15-year-old American boys in the Top 40 of the world junior rankings, along with No. 13 Stefan Kozlov (Pembroke Pines, Fla.), the Orange Bowl’s No. 4 seed, who plays on Tuesday, and No. 19 Michael Mmoh (Temple Hills, Md.), seeded sixth, who beat Canada’s Alejandro Tabilo, 6-3, 6-2, on Monday.
“I think I’m playing probably my best tennis right now,” Tiafoe said. “I think I’m probably at the top of my game. Me and all the other [15-year olds] are definitely at our best.”
Tornado Alicia Black, the top-ranked American girl in the Orange Bowl 18s draw, typically plays well close her home in Boca Raton, Fla., having won an ITF Junior Circuit event in May at this same facility. In her first-round match on Monday, the US Open junior finalist, seeded third, closed out Serbia’s Dzina Milovanovic, 6-2, 7-5, after leading, 5-2, in the second set.
“I started cramping a little in the second set. I was up, 5-2, I think, and then it came back to 5-all, and then I said to myself, ‘I really have to give these next couple games a push because I really didn’t want to go to a third set,'” Black said. “I said, ‘I’m a little too tired right now.’ But I think I did pretty good the last two games. I played more aggressive, so I think that helped a lot.”
Another young American, 15-year-old Sofia Kenin of Pembroke Pines, Fla., pulled the biggest upset of the first day, upending No. 4 Helen Ploskina of the Ukraine, 6-3, 6-1.

See the full results of Day 1 at the Metropolia Orange Bowl below:
Boys' 18s:

No. 1 Alexander Zverev, GER d. Gabriel Vellinho Hocevar, BRA, 6-3, 7-6(5)
No. 2 Johan Sebastien Tatlot, FRA d. Catalin Mateas, USA, 6-4, 6-1
No. 6 Michael Mmoh, USA d. Alejandro Tabilo, CAN, 6-3, 6-2
No. 7 Roman Safiullin, RUS d. Sora Fukuda, JPN, 6-1, 6-7(4), 6-3
No. 9 Marcelo Zormann, BRA d. Alexander Sendegeya, GBR, 6-3, 6-0
No. 13 Francis Tiafoe, USA d. Rogelio Siller, MEX, 6-1, 6-1
Weiqiang Zheng, CHN d. No. 14 Benjamin Bonzi, FRA, 6-2, 6-4
No. 15 Nino Serdarusic, CRO d. Jordi Arconada, ARG, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0
No. 16 Francisco Bahamonde, ARG d. Alexander Knight, USA, 6-1, 6-0
Rafael Matos, BRA d. Spencer Papa, USA, 6-1, 6-2
Tommy Mylnikov, CAN d. A.J. Catanzariti, USA, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3
Seong Chan Hong, KOR d. Luke Jacob Gamble, USA, 6-2, 6-0
Guy Orly Iradukunda, BDI d. Ku Keon Kang, KOR, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4
Nicolae Frunza, ROU d. Taylor Fritz, USA, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4
Reilly Opelka, USA d. Djurabeck Karimov, UZB, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
Danny Kerznerman, USA d. Julian Cash, GBR, 5-7, 6-4, 1-0, ret.
Nam Hoang Ly, VIE d. Tommy Paul, USA, 6-4, 7-6(7)
Maxime Janvier, FRA d. Dennis Uspensky, USA, 6-1, 6-4
Aron Hiltzik, USA d. Jan Zielinski, POL, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2
Girls' 18s:
No. 2 Ivana Jorovic, SRB d. Mia Horvit, USA, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3
No. 3 Tornado Alicia Black, USA d. Dzina Milovanovic, SRB, 6-2, 7-5
Sofia Kenin, USA d. No. 4 Helen Ploskina, UKR, 6-3, 6-1
No. 5 Marie Bouzkova, CZE d. Marie Norris, USA, 6-4, 6-1
No. 6 Ioana Ducu, ROU d. Michaela Gordon, USA, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3
No. 8 Johnnise Renaud, USA d. Ying Zhang, CHN, 6-2, 6-3
No. 10 Anastasiya Komardina, RUS d. Cassandra Vazquez, MEX, 6-4, 6-3
No. 13 Renata Zarazua, MEX d. Julia Grabher, AUT, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2
No. 14 Fanny Stollar, HUN d. Rianna Valdes, USA, 7-5, 6-3
Siqi Cao, CHN d. No. 15 Dasha Ivanova, USA, 6-4, 6-3
No. 16 Isabelle Wallace, GBR d. Asiya Dair, KAZ, 7-5, 6-1
Katerina Stewart, USA d. Theresa Alison Van Zyl, RSA, 6-2, 6-3
Ilka Csoregi, ROU d. Usue Maitane Arconada, USA, 6-2, 6-4
Mira Ruder-Hook, USA d. Tereza Mihalikova, SVK, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
Madison Bourguignon, USA d. Lana Rush, GBR, 6-1, 6-3
Gabriella Castaneda, USA d. Vasilisa Aponasenko, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2
Emma Higuchi, USA d. Elena Gabriela Ruse, ROU, 6-1, 0-1, ret.
Boys' 16s:
No. 1 Yunseong Chung, KOR d. Nicolas Moreno de Alboran, ESP, 6-2, 6-1
No. 2 Chan-Yeong Oh, KOR d. Emil Reinberg, USA, 6-2, 6-1
Eduardo Nava, USA d. No. 4 Ben Fatael, ISR, 6-0, 6-0
Daniel Soyfer, USA d. Jonathan Deautriell, USA, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0
No. 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas, GRE d. Maximiliano Rozas, CHI, 6-0, 6-2
No. 8 Soon Woo Kwon, KOR d. Lane Leschly, USA, 6-4, 6-1
No. 9 Robert Levine, USA d. William Tutecky, CAN, 7-5, 6-2
Alfredo Perez, USA d. A. Kovacevic, USA, 6-2, 6-0
No. 11 Harrison Scott, CAN d. Hady Habib, USA, 6-2, 6-0
No. 16 Sameer Kumar, USA d. Elijah Ogilvy, CAN, 6-2, 6-2
Andrew Heller, USA d. Francesco Alejando Cori Gamero, PER, 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-2
Chase Colton, USA d. Felix Fan, CAN, 6-4, 7-6(5)
Brian Tsao, USA d. Pavel Korenets, BLR, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2
Zeke Clark, USA d. Basil Khuma, IND, 6-4, 6-4
Igor Schattan, BRA d. William Genesen, USA, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5
Kalman Boyd, USA d. Rohman Linell Mitchell, USA, 6-2, 6-3
Nathan Perrone, USA d. Arshak Ghazaryan, ARM, 6-2, 6-4
Tyler Schick, USA d. Evan Zhu, USA, 6-2, 6-2
Casper Ruud, NOR d. Alex Del Corral, USA, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0
Alexander Lebedev, USA d. Mateo Francisco Maldonado Rodriguez, ECU, 6-2, 6-1
No. 3 Robert Levine, USA/Basil Khuma, IND
    d. Aljaz Jakob Kaplja, SLO/Filip Jakob Zupancic, SLO, 6-4, 6-1
No. 4 Ata Hergunvarim, TUR/Mert Zincirli, TUR
    d. Max Mendelsohn, USA/Salvador Mijares, VEN, 6-3, 6-7(0) [10-6]
No. 5 Dimitris Stavropoulos, GRE/Stefanos Tsitsipas, GRE
    d. Alex Del Corral, USA/Alfredo Perez, USA, 2-6, 6-4 [10-4]
No. 6 Agustin Moreno/Gerardo Penchyna Cardenas, MEX
    d. Rohman Linell Mitchell, USA/Nicolas Moreno de Alboran, ESP, 6-4, 6-4
No. 7 Sameer Kumar, USA/Kalman Boyd, USA
    d. Alexey Aleshchev, RUS/Arshak Ghazaryan, ARM, 6-2, 6-4
William Genesen, USA/Soon Woo Kwon, KOR d. No. 8 Elijah Ogilvy, CAN/Harrison Scott, CAN, 6-2, 6-3
Kyle Seelig, USA/Brian Tsoa, USA d. Felix Fan, CAN/Kyryll Kryvchun, CAN, 0-6, 6-2 [10-4]
Hady Habib, USA/Stephen Madonia, USA d. Pedro Munoz Veras, DOM/Jorge Nunez, MEX, 7-5, 6-2
Emil Reinberg, USA/Evan Zhu, USA d. Maximiliano Rozas, CHI/Igor Schattan, BRA, 6-2, 7-6(6)
Riki Oshima, JPN/Mate Valkusz, HUN
    d. Vincent Brando Lin, USA/Michael Lorenzini, USA, 3-6, 7-5 [12-10]
Matthew Gamble, USA/Tyler Schick, USA d. Aleksei Khomich, BLR/Pavel Korenets, BLR, 6-2, 6-1
Jonathan Deautriell, USA/Daniel Soyfer, USA
    d. Mateo Francisco Maldonado Rodriguez, ECU/Juan Segura, COL, walkover
Grayson Broadus, USA/Chase Colton, USA d. Sebastian Alarcon, BOL/Austin Hussey, USA, 6-3, 6-0
Zeke Clark, USA/Nathan Perrone, USA
    d. Franceesco Alejandro Cori Gamero, PER/Karl Adrian Ringdal Noerstenaes, NOR, 6-1, 6-0
Girls' 16s:
No. 1 Helen Abigail Altick, USA d. Svetlana Maslova, RUS, 6-4, 6-3
No. 4 Lisa Ponomar, GER d. Ingrid Neel, USA, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4
No. 5 Charlotte Robillard-Millette, CAN d. Christina Rosca, USA, 2-6, 6-1, 6-1
No. 6 Sofia Sewing, USA d. Stephanie Hazell, USA, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4
No. 7 Meghan Kelley, USA d. Bridget Forster, USA, 6-2, 6-0
Kenya Williams, USA d. No. 9 Alexandra Miller-Krasilnikov, USA, 6-3, 6-0
No. 13 Sydney Riley, USA d. Natalia Barbery, BOL, 6-0, 6-1
No. 14 Hada Chang, USA d. Danna Funaro, USA, 6-1, 6-1
Valerie Quiceno, USA d. Caroline Morton, USA, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0
Adriana Reami, USA d. Maria Mateas, USA, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3
Elene Tsokilauri, USA d. Alexandra Sabe, USA, 6-3, 6-1
Dominique Schaefer, USA d. Kariann Pierre-Louis, USA, 6-2, 6-0
Jada Hart, USA d. Amber Policare, USA, 6-0, 6-2
Rebecca Weissmann, USA d. Anna Sinclair Rogers, USA, 6-3, 6-2
Brienne Minor, USA d. ShiYu Xu, CHN, 6-3, 6-3
Alexa Bortles, USA d. Jeannie Nash, USA, 6-3, 6-0
Jaclyn O’Brien Switkes, USA d. Jade Lewis, NZL, 6-1, 6-0
Gabriella Pollner, USA d. Marjorie Antohi, USA, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5
Charlotte Robillard-Millette, CAN/Vanessa Wong, CAN
    d. No. 3 Jessica Livianu, USA/Alexandra Sabe, USA, 7-5, 7-5
No. 4 Hada Chang, USA/Sydney Riley, USA
    d. Maria Mateas, USA/Kariann Pierre-Louis, USA, 6-0, 6-1
Nadia Gizdova, USA/Christina Rosca, USA
    d. No. 5 Raveena Kinglsey, USA/Ines Karmen Vias, USA, 7-6(5), 7-5
Alexandra Angyalosy, USA/Amber Policare, USA
    d. No. 6 Katarina Kozarov, SRB/Ojasvinee Singh, IND, 7-5, 6-2 [10-6]
No. 7 Madison Appel, USA/Alexa Corcoleotes, USA
    d. Jeannie Nash, USA/Cassandra Perez, DOM, walkover
Jacqueline Urbinati, USA / Rebecca Weissmann, USA
    d. No. 8 Jade Lewis, NZL/Jade Robinson, USA, walkover
Danna Funaro, USA/Anna Sinclair Rogers, USA d. Natalia de Ugarte, BOL/Sofia Sewing, USA, 6-0, 6-4
Jada Hart, USA/Stephanie Hazell, USA d. Stacey Fung, CAN/Teona Velehorschi, CAN, 6-2, 5-7 [10-6]
Adriana Reami, USA/Taylor Russo/USA
    d. Diana Dehterevich, BLR/Hanna Yedzelkina, BLR, 6-3, 4-6 [10-7]
Brienne Minor, USA/Jaclyn O’Brien Switkes, USA d. Natalia Barbery, BOL/Camila Romero, ECU, 6-3, 6-2
Meghan Kelley, USA/Gabriella Pollner, USA d. Zlata Shuraeva, RUS/Alexandra Taylor, AUS, 6-1, 6-1
Janna Friedel, USA/Alexis Nelson, USA
    d. Luisa Fernanda Guerra Castilla, MEX/Tina Kreinis, CAN, 6-3, 6-2
Ingrid Neel, USA/Dominique Schaefer, USA
    d. Natasha Esschendal, ARU/Naomi Idelis Waters, USA, 6-1, 6-2
Nandini Das, IND/ShiYu Xu, CHN d. Bridget Forster, USA/Elene Tsokilauri, USA, 6-2, 6-7(9) [10-1]


For more on junior tennis, and to find a kids' tennis program and facility near you, go to YouthTennis.com.