Tiafoe wins Clay Court Championships, moves to 11th in world rankings

Frances Tiafoe
Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, returns a shot against Daniil Medvedev, of Russia, during a semifinal match at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Indian Wells, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Frances Tiafoe has continued his strong run of recent play by winning his second ATP tour-level title at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship this weekend. 

The American is now 19-5 to begin 2023 after his 7-6(1), 7-6(6) win over Argentinian Tomas Martin Etcheverry in Sunday’s final. Despite appearing in a few finals, this was his first trophy since he won his first title in 2018 at the Delray Beach Open. Tiafoe had suffered four straight final defeats since that Delray Beach win, including two last season in Estoril and Tokyo. 

The journey to the title at the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship was another but easy for Tiafoe. 

All of the matches on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were canceled becomes of persistent rain. That meant that the singles tournament players were required to play two matches on each of the weekend days with the second round and quarterfinals on Saturday and the semifinals and final completed on Sunday.

Tiafoe won his two matches on Saturday and then started Sunday by earning a 6-4, 6-1 semi-final win against Gijs Brouwer, who had eliminated American J.J. Wolf on Saturday. 

The Clay Court Championships was the first time Tiafoe had been the top seed at an event, and he entered the finals without losing a set. That achievement was tested in the first set against Etcheverry when neither player conceded a single break point during the set. 

However, the American broke open the tie-breaker with a backhand winner that gave him a 5-1 lead and allowed him to cruise to a tiebreaker victory. 

Tiafoe seemed on the way to an easier second set when he broke Etcheverry in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. However, when he was serving for the match up 5-4, he seemed a bit nervous and had a few misses that prevented him from serving out the final.

He then also found himself down 3-1 and 5-3 during the second set tiebreaker before winning long rallies at 5-5 and 6-6 before converting his second match point with his 12th ace of the match.

For the match, Tiafoe won 81% of the points on his first serve and 68% points on his second serve to go along with his 12 aces and just one double fault. He also converted the only break point that he faced throughout the one-hour, 53-minute championship match.

The win in Houston continues the American’s rise up the rankings and his emergence into the elite level class of the ATP Tour. He made waves by reaching the US Open semi-finals this past summer and has continued his strong run of form into the spring. 

The victory at the 2023 US Men’s Clay Court Championships lifts Tiafoe four places to 11th in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, which is a new career high. He’s now just one spot behind fellow American Taylor Fritz. 

However, due to the odd nature of the schedule in Houston, playing four matches in two days, Tiafoe made the decision to withdraw from the ATP 1000 Monte Carlo Open, which begins on Monday. 

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