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FRANCES TIAFOE INTO FIRST GRASS-COURT QUARTERFINAL AT QUEEN’S CLUB • FEVER-TREE TENNIS

Frances Tiafoe of the US in action against Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer during their match at the Fever Tree Championship at Queen’s Club in London, Britain, 20 June 2018. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL

 

 

By Richard Pagliario

 

LONDON—Frances Tiafoe once viewed grass-court season with all the optimism of a man undergoing root canal surgery with a weed whacker.

 

Times have changed.

 

Tiafoe is sinking his teeth into lawn tennis and rapidly becoming an all-surface player.

 

The 20-year-old Tiafoe pumped 10 aces, won 80 percent of his first-serve points and saved four of six break points stopping Argentinian Leonardo Mayer, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, charging into his first career grass-court quarterfinal at the Fever-Tree Championships.

 

“I thought it was a really good match,” Tiafoe said. “I knew it was going to be tough today. I came out playing great. Second set, had a little lapse, but third set was extremely tight and I was happy to get through.”

 

The world No. 62 isn’t the most accomplished American, but he scored his 18th victory of the season today and now leads all American men for most wins in 2018.

 

This grass surge is rooted in a clay setback.

 

Following his Roland Garros first-round loss to compatriot Sam Querrey, Tiafoe opted to stay in Europe and train on grass rather than flying back to the States.

 

Now, he’s joined Querrey as one of two Americans into the last eight at Queen’s Club.

 

“Pretty pumped,” Tiafoe said of advancing to his first grass-court quarterfinal. “I mean, grass hasn’t been my favorite surface at all in the past here. I had unbelievable prep, staying here after the French Open, practicing on grass for a couple of weeks and practicing at the LTA with a bunch of great players. It’s paying off luckily.”

 

It’s been a season of firsts for Tiafoe, who captured his first ATP title in Delray Beach, reached his clay-court final in Estoril and now is through to his first grass-court quarterfinal.

 

The next step for the talented Tiafoe is breaking through to the second week of a major.

 

The explosive American has endured some brutal Grand Slam draws, including falling to Roger Federer in five sets at the 2017 US Open, bowing to Alexander Zverev at Wimbledon last summer and losing to Juan Martin del Potro, one of his tennis heroes, at the Australian Open in January.

 

Tiafoe said his Grand Slam goal is a simple one.

 

“Try and get seeded one day in a Slam,” the world No. 62 told 10sBalls.com. “Let’s start there. I mean, it’s tough but I mean you’ve got to overlook that. I mean, eventually in the draw you’re going to have to take one of these guys out. Unfortunately, I haven’t.”

 

Taking out a seed in a major may well just be a matter of time if Tiafoe can continue to apply his variety on lawn. He showed a sharp slice backhand and willingness to attack net at critical stages against Mayer today.

 

“You know, I know I can,” Tiafoe told 10sballs.com of his Grand Slam aspirations. “If I bring a good level, I have a chance against anyone in the world, I feel. So, I mean, it’s only going to help me in the long run.”

 

Aiming to continue his Queen’s Club run, Tiafoe faces ‘s-Hertogenbosch runner-up Jeremy Chardy for a spot in the final four.

 

“Jeremy, a great friend of mine,” Tiafoe said. “Really good player. So far, he’s been having an unbelievable grass court season. He won a big challenger, made finals last week in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Obviously, he’s feeling good.

 

“[I will] try and slow him down, try and get it done on Friday.”

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