Federer impressed by 'fearless' US teen after win

Roger Federer celebrates match point against Frances Tiafoe during day 6 of the Miami Open.
Roger Federer celebrates match point against Frances Tiafoe during day 6 of the Miami Open.PHOTO: AFP

MIAMI • Swiss superstar Roger Federer tipped American teenager Frances Tiafoe to have a great future in tennis, after beating the Miami Open qualifier on Saturday.

The 19-year-old Tiafoe, No. 101 in the world, took the in-form Federer to a first-set tie-break before losing 6-7 (2-7), 3-6 in their second-round contest.

Federer, an 18-time Grand Slam champion, was hugely impressed by the way the Maryland youngster approached the match.

"Seemed to be fearless, no problem, good serving, taking the ball early, making the plays," said this year's Australian Open and Indian Wells champion.

"That's what I like to see, when a younger player comes out, that he really feels he has nothing to lose and he's only got stuff to gain.

"I hope he's going to learn a lot from a match like this, just because playing on a centre court with a lot of people, under pressure, saving break points, making break points, playing breakers - that's what it's about."

Tiafoe is the son of immigrants from Sierra Leone and grabbed the attention of American tennis aficionados when he won the Orange Bowl junior competition at the Key Biscayne venue of the Miami Open as a 15-year-old. He was the youngest winner of the tournament and at 17 he entered the French Open on a wild card. In January, he won his first match in a Grand Slam event, beating Mikhail Kukushkin in the Australian Open.

Federer, 35, said he was not surprised by the American's powerful serve and hard hitting.

"I've hit with Frances maybe twice before: once at the French and once at the US Open. There he surprised me. I'm not going to get the surprise really a second time around because I saw the power he had, the explosivity he had. You know, how he easily can generate pace," he said after extending his season win-loss record to 14-1. "So I think he's going to be really good."

Federer is looking for his third Miami crown following his titles in 2005 and 2006.

Reigning US Open champion Stan Wawrinka also got off to a solid start, beating Argentina's Horacio Zeballos 6-3, 6-4 at Crandon Park.

In the absence of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, the top two players in the world, Wawrinka is the top seed and is fired up after reaching the final at Indian Wells last week.

Said the Swiss, who turns 32 tomorrow. "When I'm playing well, when I am confident with my game, I know I can beat anybody."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2017, with the headline 'Federer impressed by 'fearless' US teen after win'. Print Edition | Subscribe