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Frances Tiafoe advances at the US Open

By Sigurd Neubauer


All eyes are on America’s tennis wonderkid Frances Tiafoe, 25, who defeated Sebastian Ofner, 27, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 at the US Open in New York on Wednesday evening.

“Tiafoe made it look so easy, but nothing is easy during the second round of a Grand Slam tournament,” explains President of the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) Vesa Ponkka. 

Ponkka knows Tiafoe well from the 20 some years Tiafoe studied at the JTCC. 

Ponkka, who is also one of America’s preeminent tennis coaches, describes Tiafoe’s performance against Ofner as “a professional one.” Tiafoe,  the veteran coach explains, “used to struggle with these kinds of matches. He didn’t lose his concentration and focus tonight.”

Everything considered, Ponkka is optimistic about the third round in which Tiafoe faces Adrian Mannarino, 35, on Friday. 

“It will be a difficult match for the Frenchman as the American is not only a crowd favorite in New York but he’s in top form.”

Frances Tiafoe greets fans following his victory over Learner Tien on Monday. Photo credit: Darren Carroll/USTA

Vesa Ponkka is one of America’s preeminent tennis coaches. Photo credit: Courtesy 

During his first match on Monday, Tiafoe defeated Learner Tien, 17, 6-2, 7-5, 6-1.

Comparing the two matches, Ponkka describes his victory over Ofner as a cleaner one.

“Tiafoe brings it up a notch every round; it’s very encouraging to witness how he’s playing as the American is asserting himself into the tournament.”

Commenting on Tiafoe’s match against Tien, the JTCC President points out that it is difficult to play against a young and up-and-coming player. 

“Whereas Tiafoe’s match against Tien was an A-, tonight’s match was an A. Tiafoe is performing like the top 10 player that he is.”

Ponkka is referring to the fact that Tiafoe is not spending extra time on court as he’s winning his matches quickly so that he can save energy for later in the tournament. “Mannarino is a tricky opponent, but Tiafoe is the favorite,” Ponkka explains.

Last year, Tiafoe lost to Carlos Alcaraz, 20, during the semifinal in what was nothing short of a nailbiter of a match. The 2022 US Open was a a career highpoint for Tiafoe who clearly wants to improve his results in New York this year.

Immediately following his victory on Monday, Tiafoe declared in a preconference: “It feels so good to be back here. I’m going to try my hardest and put everything on the line. Hopefully, these next couple of weeks are ones to remember.”


Commenting on how Tiafoe is responding to the pressure he faces, Ponkka describes his mental strength as rock solid. “He’s in a good place mentally at the moment; he also likes the New York crowd and the center court.”

Sebastian Ofner of Austria. Photo credit: Garret Ellwood/USTA
 Tiafoe is performing like the top 10 player that he is: Ponkka 
Frances Tiafoe and Learner Tien.Photo credit: Darren Carroll/USTA
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