After facing opponents from France, Burundi, Italy and Russia, Riverdale Park native Francis Tiafoe found himself in the last round of the tennis championship. In the all USA finals of the Orange Bowl Tennis Championships in December, Tiafoe’s 7-6 (7-3), 0-6, 6-3 victory over Stefan Kozlov put him in the history books as the youngest boys’ singles winner in the international tournament’s 67-year history.

On March 18, Tiafoe, now 16, was recognized at home when Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker honored him with a proclamation and plaque. “I am pleased that this tradition is continuing with these talented athletes who are among the best in the county and the world,” Baker said. “We must support our student athletes by encouraging them and celebrating their achievements.”

Tiafoe was overwhelmed to receive this warm welcome from Baker and to receive his honor. “It’s a great feeling,” Tiafoe said. “I’m really happy that these guys care and really have interest in what I’m doing. I been a Prince George’s County resident my whole life, so I’m glad to meet him and be here.”

At age 16, Tiafoe has joined an elite group of iconic professional tennis players that includes Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Andy Roddick and Roger Federer. “This past tournament win was an unbelievable feeling that I will never forget, especially since I’m the youngest to do this so far,” the 6 foot 1, 165 pound Tiafoe told the AFRO. “It’s something I will never forget. I had a great week.”

Tiafoe’s current record in singles competition is 36-14, and 29-16 in doubles.
Tiafoe has been playing tennis since he could hold a bracket at the age of two, training at the 27-court Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) in College Park.

The facility is an award-winning United States Tennis Association (USTA) Regional Training Center. Program director of JTTC Marco Impeduglia told the AFRO, “I believe we not only have the best training center in the world, but we also improve the well-being of the human being.”

In two weeks, Tiafoe will travel to California for the USTA International Springs Championships and the Easter Bowl tournaments. These will be Tiafoe’s first competitions of the year.


Courtney Jacobs

AFRO Staff Writer