Nineteen-year-old Frances Tiafoe achieved a career-high #72 ATP world ranking and moved into the #5 qualifying spot for November’s inaugural “Next Gen” ATP Finals in Milan by winning his third ATP Tour Challenger title at the $100,000 Sarasota Open at the United Tennis Club in Bradenton, FL on Sunday.
Tiafoe moved up 15 spots on Monday’s latest ATP world rankings list and is currently the youngest player inside the top 100. The 90 points he gained from his title winning run in Florida also propelled him into 5th place in the “Race to Milan” standings, for those players aged 21 and under who are competing to earn the right to play in the first edition of the “Next Gen” ATP Finals. The top seven young stars who acquire the most ATP points during 2017 will qualify automatically for the event in Milan from November 7-11. They will be joined by one wild card selection.
On route to the Sarasota title, the #3 seed, overcame former world #8 Austrian Jurgen Melzer 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(5) in the semifinals before beating fellow American Tennys Sandgreen 6-3, 6-4 in the championship match.
During 2016, Tiafoe claimed his first two ATP Challenger titles in Granby, Canada and Stockton, CA. His success on Sunday marked his maiden clay court triumph as a professional.
The JTCC alumnus has already made his mark at the ATP World Tour level in 2017 with his first Grand Slam main draw win over Mikhail Kukushkin at the Australian Open in addition to a first round win at the Miami Open and a promising showing against Roger Federer in the second round.
“I’m up to #72 now and I’m going to try and play as many tour level events as I can,” said Tiafoe, who is set on testing himself at the highest level of professional competition in the coming months. “Europe, on the clay and grass, is going to be a big stretch for me. I want to make some dents over there.”