08:51 PM GMT April 24, 2017
#NextGenATP star Frances Tiafoe continued his assault on the Emirates ATP Rankings, streaking to the title at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Sarasota on Sunday. Up to a career-high World No. 72 with his third Challenger crown, the American also moved into fifth position in the Emirates ATP Race To Milan. Tiafoe - the fourth teen titlist on the circuit this year - has come full circle in Sarasota, having qualified for his first Challenger main draw there two years ago.
I know a lot of the work you're putting in is to finish off points faster and get you through matches faster. How did that play out this week on the clay?
“It's just about staying focused, which usually turns into winning easier. I'm definitely more comfortable in playing solid tennis. My coaches have been keeping me pretty focused and it's been going well.
”This season has been really good. In February, it was tough with the arm issue and then I was sick in San Francisco and Memphis. But other than that, it's been a pretty good season and I've played some great tennis. I'm happy with the team around me and they've been pushing me. I think I'm in a good situation right now.”
Coach Robby [Ginepri] said to me this week that it was good that you got to play Juan Martin del Potro (Abierto Mexicano Telcel) and Roger Federer (Miami Open presented by Itau), to see how they stayed focused through a match. What did you learn from those two matches in particular?
“I took a lot out of those. Seeing what the top guys do, how they approach a match and play the big points. That helped me a lot for tournaments like these too. I’m just happy to win my third ATP Challenger Tour title here, especially with this being the first Challenger I ever played. Really happy to get this one.”
2017 #NextGenATP Challenger Winners
|Denis Shapovalov||17 yrs, 11 mos.||Drummondville, CAN
|Frances Tiafoe||19 yrs, 3 mos.||Sarasota, USA|
|Alexander Bublik||19 yrs, 8 mos.||Morelos, MEX|
||20 yrs, 8 mos.
|Noah Rubin||20 yrs, 11 mos.||Launceston, AUS|
You started 0-5 in Challenger finals and now you’ve won your last three. What changed?
“I took some beatings. There were some tough moments. After losing that close one to Ernesto [Escobedo] in Lexington last year, I started thinking that any time I’m in a final I’m going to take it. Just be aggressive and go for it. That one – losing in a third set tie-break – was a heartbreaker. It hurt. It almost cost me a spot in the US Open. I’ve definitely paid my dues. I feel like I now deserve it every time I’m in a final.”
What was the difference today?
“Tennys hasn’t been in as many finals as I have and I feel like he was a little tight today. More than he has been, but credit to him for the week. After that match yesterday (a three-hour win over Jurgen Melzer), I left it all out there today.”
You’re up to No. 72 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. How do you plan to structure your schedule now that ATP World Tour events are within reach.
“I’m up to No. 72 now, but I have final points coming off next week, which is why I’m playing Tallahassee. After that, I think I’m going to call it and play as many tour-level events as I can. Until the summer, I don’t have much coming off. Europe, on the clay and grass, is going to be a big stretch for me. I want to make some dents there. I’ve definitely established myself at this level and it’s going to be tough in Tour events, but it’s time.”