Not This Time: Tiafoe Roars Back Against Anderson
Frances Tiafoe had seen this routine before from Kevin Anderson. The South African beat the #NextGenATP American three times last season, and on Wednesday at the Australian Open, the fifth seed looked well on his way to improving to 4-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
Anderson led 6-4, 3-0 before, in Tiafoe's words, the American “just went to a different place.”
“I dug insanely deep... It's all about competing. Guys are so good, it's just how bad do you really want it? I wanted it real bad,” Tiafoe said.
The 20-year-old captured the biggest win of his career by ATP Ranking, beating the World No. 6 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.
“My biggest win is probably Delpo [Juan Martin del Potro] in Delray Beach in 2018, because of him being my idol,” said Tiafoe. “[But] I've never felt something like that after winning a tennis match. The fact that it was a Grand Slam, [the] second seed I beat, obviously a Top 5 player, it's pretty big.
“Those are the matches I feel like I'm dangerous… I'm starting to feel more comfortable finishing the match, not just playing a match. These are the matches where they kind of define you and help you feel more and more comfortable to keep winning matches like that. I'm definitely going to remember this one.”
Anderson, who received treatment on his right elbow after the third set, served to go up 6-5 in the fourth, but he double faulted on break point. In the following game, Tiafoe recovered from a 15/40 deficit to reach the third round at a Grand Slam for the second time (2018 Wimbledon) and first in Melbourne.
The American served and volleyed on match point, the 27th time he approached the net, winning nearly 80 per cent of those trips (21/27). “It means the world to me,” Tiafoe said.
The 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier will next face Italy's Andreas Seppi, who nearly doubled his winner to unforced error count (38 to 20) and beat Aussie Jordan Thompson 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Seppi made the Sydney International final last week before falling to #NextGenATP Aussie Alex de Minaur.
When asked about his next opponent, Tiafoe said, “Seppi is a great player. [He’s] been around for forever. I mean, pretty solid from both sides. A ton of long rallies. [He’s] definitely going to make me beat him. He's not going to beat himself. It's going to be a good match.”
Two-time semi-finalist Tomas Berdych needed just 79 minutes to beat Robin Haase 6-1, 6-3, 6-3. The 33-year-old Czech dropped only five points behind his first serve (38/43) and hit 28 winners to advance to the third round.