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Francis Tiafoe to play in Orange Bowl Final today

Jan 2, 2014

Francis Tiafoe of JTCC eyes a win in the Orange Bowl Final today at 10 AM

Francis Tiafoe of JTCC eyes a win in the Orange Bowl Final today at 10 AM (Photo Credit: Art Seitz)

The tuck ruling that led to a title and launched a Hall of Fame career.  Willis Reed defying the odds in Game 7 and netting the Knicks its first championship.  Kevin Millar’s walk and Dave Robert’s subsequent theft of second base that eradicated the ghosts of baseball past.

The common theme of these improbable events is that momentum, especially in the sport realm, is finicky and unpredictable.  But when the ball starts rolling in your direction, the result more often than not becomes a foregone conclusion.  In an ESPN SportsCentury piece, Phil Pepe, a former scribe for the New York Daily News (1968 to 1991), attests to this when he relayed his observation of the panic-stricken pale faces of the Lakers, the Knicks’ opponent, as Reed limped onto the court.  “The Lakers turned around and saw this [Reed jogging to the court from the locker room] and they lost the game right there.”

15-year-old Francis Tiafoe can tell you first-hand.

Tiafoe, a Junior Tennis Champions Center player, entered the Metropolia Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships with a chip on his shoulder.  He was fuming about his quarterfinal loss at Eddie Herr this month and his first round exit last year at the Orange Bowl was a haunting memory.

“I came here, on the practice courts, was still devastated from the loss, wasn’t really feeling the courts, and I was complaining a lot,” Tiafoe told Pat Mitsch of “I came into the first match and started feeling really good. Things are really going my way.”

It was a seismic shift in attitude and court presence that propelled Tiafoe into the finals of the revered Orange Bowl.

The Easter Bowl may be the self-proclaimed SuperBowl of junior tennis tournaments but the Orange Bowl is a BCS title game, NCAA Final Four contest and the final day of the Ryder Cup wrapped into one.  The excitement and nerves are palpable.  Even tennis authorities Darren Cahill and Brad Gilbert chime in via Twitter.

In the final, Tiafoe will face off against a familiar foe in 15-year-old Stefan Kozlov, a fellow American, the No. 4 seed in the tournament and Tiafoe’s Junior Davis Cup teammate.

The match is set to commence at 10 AM this morning.  You can follow the action live on the Orange Bowl website. To the chagrin of junior tennis followers, the match will not be live streamed.

“Unbelievable,” Tiafoe told Mitsch, “for ’98s, period, because we’re both ’98s, and for American tennis, too, so we have an American that wins it for sure.”

According to Mitsch, either Kozlov or Tiafoe will become the youngest boys’ 18s champion in Orange Bowl history.

With momentum in his back pocket, Tiafoe is poised to hoist the trophy and re-write the record books.

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