As the first 17-year-old American man in the French Open since Michael Chang won the 1989 title, Frances Tiafoe learned a valuable lesson from a straight-set loss in his Grand Slam debut.
”I need,” Tiafoe said with a chuckle, ”to get a lot better.”
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Tiafoe, from College Park, Maryland, earned a wild card from the U.S. Tennis Association for the main draw at Roland Garros, a year after playing in the junior tournament in Paris. On tiny Court 5 – with a seating capacity of 379, and no television coverage – Tiafoe went out quickly Monday, beaten 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 by 36th-ranked Martin Klizan of Slovakia.
”In juniors, like, a lot of people were looking up to me last year, when I was the (No. 1) seed. Now I’m looking up to everyone here,” Tiafoe said. ”It was definitely a lot different. But, I mean, I’ve got to get used to it, I guess.”
Other than when Tiafoe grabbed a short-lived 3-0 lead in the third set, things did not go his way against Klizan. During the first set, Tiafoe threw his racket.
”I’m still young,” he said. ”I still show emotions a lot when I’m out there.”
If he was feeling down about the result, he didn’t let on afterward, smiling and laughing at various moments during his news conference. His eyes lit up when he spoke about ”seeing the greats in the locker room.”
Tiafoe turned pro last month and is represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports. He recently changed coaches, teaming with the USTA’s Jose Higueras.
Asked which part of his game he’d like work on the most, Tiafoe replied, ”Everything can get better,” before mentioning his serve and volleys.
”I saw him playing for the first time in my life, so I can’t say what’s going to be his future,” Klizan said. ”If he works hard, then he can be good. But I can’t say if he’s going to be top 10 or top 100. Nobody knows.”