You may not have heard of Francis Tiafoe, but you will.
The youngest player to win the Dunlop Orange Bowl in its 67-year history,
Tiafoe, who turns 16 this month, joins a long list of tennis greats who have won the Championship, including Roger Federer, John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Ivan Lendl, Bjorn Borg and more.
Tiafoe said of the Orange Bowl: “If you really look down at the champions, there are some champions that have won that tournament that I’ve never heard of. And I don’t want to be that guy, especially now that I’m the youngest to win it.”
Luckily, Tiafoe has lots of help. He is one of the star pupils at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in suburban Washington, where he has trained since he was 8.
Under the direction of Vesa Ponkka, a native of Finland and the center’s director of tennis, the center features 15 indoor courts and 17 outdoor ones. Its focus is on harvesting local tennis talent, rather than trying to cull the best from around the country and the world.
And in Tiafoe, they’ve found the embodiment of their master plan.
“I never try to get ahead of myself because there’s nothing that bothers me more than cockiness,” Tiafoe said. “I don’t think that’s necessary at all. If anything, you just let your racket talk — there’s no reason for you to talk if your racket can.”
If that’s not the sign of a true champion, then I don’t know what is…