Maryland native Tiafoe stuns No. 3 seed Tsitsipas at Wimbledon originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
An American has just completed a colossal upset at tennis’ most prestigious tournament.
Frances Tiafoe went into his first-round Wimbledon matchup against Stefanos Tsitsipas, the event's No. 3 seed and runner-up at the French Open earlier this month, as a huge underdog.
Given that the Greek superstar has moved up to No. 4 in the latest world tennis rankings, led Novak Djokovic two sets to none in the championship final at Roland Garros and was a semifinalist at the Australian Open in February, you can understand why.
But in two hours and two minutes, Tiafoe did what many thought a herculean task and defeated Tsitsipas in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3. He will move on to face the winner of Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) vs. Vasek Pospisil (CAN) in the second round on Wednesday.
Tiafoe controlled the tempo of play from beginning to end, notably returning dozens of Tsitsipas’ rocket-powered serves with poise and precision. Tiafoe, 23, earned his first ever win over a top-5 opponent in his career.
“Frances, many congratulations. A straight-sets win over Stefanos Tsitsipas to kick things off at Wimbledon—how good does that sound to you?” he was asked in the post-match interview.
“Yeah, it sounds pretty damn good.”
Born in Hyattsville, Md., Tiafoe’s Wimbledon triumph is the latest of what has been a remarkable story for the 23-year-old. He is the son of two Sierra Leonean immigrants who fled their home country to escape civil war in the mid-1990s. Tiafoe's father began working as a construction worker at the College Park Junior Tennis Championships Center (JTCC) in 1999, shortly after Frances was born, and eventually became the custodian. He was given a spare office that doubled as a bedroom for his children.
Frances used his family’s unique circumstances to play tennis all day, every day. Nineteen years later, Tiafoe shocked the tennis world by defeating a player many picked to reach another Grand Slam final.
“Definitely one of my best [performances]. I mean, I was from start to finish pretty clean," Tiafoe said on the post-match interview broadcast on ESPN. "If you don’t want to play against the best players in the world, in the best atmospheres in the world…this is what you train for. This is what it’s all about and I live for these kind of moments…I love this and playing in front of you guys, trying to make something good happen.”
Tiafoe’s best Wimbledon performance to date was when he lost in the third round in 2018. His best major appearance came at the 2019 Australian Open, where he lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the quarterfinals.
Tsitsipas, meanwhile, must head home early from Wimbledon 2021, a stunning loss given how close he came to his first Grand Slam title in Paris. Tsitsipas, 22, gave world No. 1 Djokovic quite a scare in the final there before fading in a five-set loss.
Tiafoe’s win will advance the American to the second round of Wimbledon for the third time in his career.
“Obviously, you know, I’m not even close to where I want to be. I’ve had a lot of great achievements but haven’t even scratched the surface, I feel personally,” Tiafoe said. “Today was big. I definitely needed that with a guy of [Tsitsipas’] level. That guy’s special. He’s gonna do a lot of great things and win a ton of Grand Slams, but … not today."