The Devonshire Park Lawn Tennis Club is the venue for the tournament Eastbourne, on the south coast of England. In the current calendar it is, together with Mallorca, one of the last tennis seasons before the action in Wimbledon, the third Grand Slam of the season, which this year will raise the curtain next Monday. There, on the British lawn, in the last hours there was a serve that…, without a doubt, can aspire to become one of the worst in professional history.
The author of such a service was one of the best in the world, the American Frances Tiafoe, 24 years old and 28th in the ranking. The curious fact occurred during the duel of the first round of the ATP 250 in Eastbourne, against Alexander Bublik (39th), more precisely in the third game of the third set, with the Kazakh leading the score by 2-0. After giving up his serve in the first game, Tiafoe continued to have doubts on serve and produced one of the worst second serves in memory on tour: from the even side sent the ball more than ten meters wide to the opposite sector. What’s more: the American’s shot almost hit a ball catcher, who only managed to lower his head.
After the very serve that ended up becoming a double fault (and causing the surprise of the public present), Tiafoe stood for a few seconds looking in the direction of the lost ball, as if not understanding what he had done. He evidently was already without confidence or intentions to try to keep fighting for the match. That third set, finally, ended very quickly, with a 6-0 in favor of Bublik, who ended up winning 5-7, 7-6 (7-4) and 6-0, in 1h50m, to advance to the round of 16. final of the contest (his next rival will be the Australian John Millman).
After the match, Tiafoe’s action did not go unnoticed. Even some colleagues of the player born in Hyattsville, Maryland, took it with a smile. For example el inlandés Botic van de Zandschulpcurrent 26th in the world, who uploaded a Twitter post of Tiafoe’s video and shared one of his own (and a very bad one) against the Italian Matteo Berrettini, a few days ago, in the semifinals lost in the Queen’s tournament.
“I’m not sure which is worse. @FTiafoe’s or mine.”wrote van de Zandschulp on the social network, in a humorous tone. The American, for the moment, did not answer him. The current season is not a good one for Tiafoe: he played only one ATP final (in Estoril; he lost to Argentine Sebastián Báez) and has a record of 12 wins and 13 losses.
Tiafoe, one of the most beloved players on tour, knows what sacrifice is. He always appreciates what his parents did for him and his twin brother, Franklin. Frances Tiafoe Sr. and Alphina Kamara set foot in the US in 1996, coming from Sierra Leone, trying to find the opportunities that were not there in that African portion.
Before Tiafoe became a racquet prodigy (in 2013, at the age of 15, he was the youngest to win the Orange Bowl, under 18; even faster than Roger Federer, John McEnroe or Bjorn Borg) , his parents, without resting, juggled to progress. In 1999, with one-year-old children, Tiafoe Sr. signed up as a day laborer in the construction of the Junior Tennis Champions Center, in College Park, a city in Prince George’s County, in the state of Maryland. As the money was not enough, he decided to work a double shift, dedicating himself to cleaning the complex during the day and taking care of the tennis courts at night. Debts, liens, obstacles to paying the rent were part of the Tiafoe scenario during years. Today, in addition to being an excellent tennis player, Frances Tiafoe is a tennis player committed to equality and the fight against racism.
Argentinians in Eastbourne
Aside from the curious action involving Tiafoe, the tournament is still going on and the singles draw featured two Argentine players, although only one of them is still standing. Diego Schwartzman (15th in the world and fourth seed in the contest) came out ahead and, this Wednesday, in the second round, he will face the British Jack Draper (108th).
Francisco Cerundolo (42nd; the best ranking of his career) made his debut today in the first round and lost to the American Tommy Paul (35th) by 4-6, 7-6 (7-2) and 6-4, in 2h38m.