Frances Tiafoe makes history with top 10 ranking

Frances Tiafoe
Frances Tiafoe celebrates winning a point at the US Clay Court Championships (wikimedia commons)

American tennis star Frances Tiafoe made his debut in the world top 10 on Monday after his tournament victory on Sunday in the ATP 250 grass-court tournament in Stuttgart, Germany.

His win in the final over German Jan-Lennard Struff was fitting of his historic achievement, fighting off a match point in the third set to win 4-6, 7-56(1), 7-6(8)

It was Tiafoe’s third-ever tournament win on the ATP tour but his first title on grass. The win in Stuttgart was not only monumental for Tiafoe personally but for tennis history in general.

By winning and moving into the top 10, Tiafoe joins Taylor Fritz to give the United States two Men in the top 10 for the first time since the week of May 7, 2012 when Mardy Fish ranked 9th and John Isner ranked. Fritz currently sits at 8th while Tiafoe will enter at 10th. 

However, with the win, Tiafoe also becomes just the third African-American man to rank in the top 10 since 1973 and the first since James Blake 5,256 days ago. The ATP rankings were created in 1973 and since that time, only Arthur Ashe (debuting on August 23, 1973) and James Blake (debuting on March 20, 2006) have cracked the top 10. 

Frances Tiafoe reacts after winning a tie breaker against Andrey Rublev during the quarterfinals of the US Open.
Frances Tiafoe reacts after winning a tie breaker against Andrey Rublev during the quarterfinals of the US Open. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

“I’m a guy who shouldn’t even really be here doing half the things he’s doing,” Tiafoe said after his match with Struff.  “And now when you say my name, you can say he’s top 10 in the world. So [that is] something that no one can take from you and I’m going to remember that forever. Hopefully, I can ride that for a long time.”

Frances Tiafoe’s story has been well-documented because of how much he and his family went through to get him to this point. 

His parents met in the United States after fleeing Sierra Leone. Frances’ father, Constant Tiafoe, worked at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in Washington, D.C. back in 1999 and even moved into one of its vacant storage rooms to accommodate his long work hours and his wife working nights as a nurse. 

Frances and his twin brother Franklin would spend a lot of time at the tennis club, which gave Tiafoe an opportunity to start developing his skills and even began to train at the facility, often using equipment that other players had discarded. 

Now he’s a top 10 player in the world. 

The next step for Tiafoe is to showcase his talents on the big stage at a Grand Slam. 

The Maryland native reached his first major quarterfinal at the Australian Open in 2019 and then experienced his best run last year, making the US Open semifinals, but the rest of his Grand Slam history is littered with early exits. 

Perhaps his success on grass will help him break through at Wimbledon next month? If Vegas oddsmakers are any indication, Tiafoe seems to be a way off from making that level of history. 

2023 Wimbledon Odds

Frances Tiafoe is now +6500 to win Wimbledon. He still trails Taylor Fritz, who is +2200 to win the tournament. However, Tiafoe also, surprisingly, trails 29th-ranked American Sebastian Korda, who is +3500 to win Wimbledon

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Frances Tiafoe is a favorite at the Dallas Open
Frances Tiafoe of the U.S. reacts after defeating Daniel Altmaier of Germany in their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)