Francis Tiafoe trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) in College Park, Md. But after winning an international tennis competition recently, his name is being heralded around the world.

Tiafoe, 15, became the youngest winner ever when he took top honors Dec. 15 at the Metropolia Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships in Plantation, Fla. The win places him among the elite of young players in the history of tennis. Previous winners include former international adult tennis phenoms John McEnroe, Andy Roddick and Roger Federer.

Tiafoe, who stands 6’1” and weighs 165 pounds, defeated Pembroke, Fla. resident Stefan Kozlov 7-6 , 0-6, 6-3. According to ABC News, it marked the first “all-America Orange Bowl boys’ final since 2004” and the first time two 15-year-old boys had faced each other in the finals of the singles competition in the 67 years the tournament has been held.

A win in the boys’ 18-and-under Orange Bowl competition has kick-started untold success for the best respected players in men’s professional tennis. Bjorn Borg won it. Jim Courier was a champion there. So was Ivan Lendl.

Tiafoe told the Washington Post: “It’s unbelievable. To be one of the winners of this tournament is something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.”
Tiafoe’s success spotlights the JTCC program at College Park, which started in 1998.

“The JTCC will celebrate its 15th anniversary in 2014 with one player having achieved a top-100 ranking on the ATP Tour, one player ranked No. 1 in intercollegiate tennis, and now the youngest winner of the Orange Bowl,” said Ray Benton, JTCC’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “In addition, and most importantly, JTCC graduates have earned millions in college scholarships.”

Benton credited JTCC founder Ken Brody’s “generosity” in bringing the facility to fruition and the staff for creating champions out of talented young people.

The JTCC was tapped as the 2013 Facility & Organization of the Year by the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA). The facility is a 501(c)(3) organization. It is equipped with 32 courts and operates after school and summer programs.

Tiafoe’s win comes as U.S. tennis officials are attempting to bring up a new batch of championship-caliber players. The last American man to win a grand slam in tennis–victory in all four major tennis tournaments–is Roddick in 2013.

Zachary Lester

AFRO Staff Writer