Is Tiafoe's win in Delray Beach only the beginning?

One of the more interesting ATP results this February was 20-year-old Francis Tiafoe’s title win at Delray Beach. What should we expect from Tiafoe after his first tour-level trophy at such a young age?

Heralded since his junior years as a tennis prodigy, American Francis Tiafoe re-ignited all expectations about his future when he took his first 250 title at Delray Beach. Becoming a champion at a tour-level event just a month after his 20th birthday was an achievement in itself. But Tiafoe’s win was made even more impressive by the fact that he had to defeat fellow rising stars Denis Shapovalov and Hyeon Chung and seasoned World No. 10 Juan Martin Del Potro to get there.

Tiafoe’s future has already received plenty of hype. And his win in Delray has raised the speculation even higher.

With two American Masters events just around the corner it is just the time to wonder whether Tiafoe is on track to do something even more impressive in the coming weeks.

We can get some idea of this by looking at the paths of other players who have made big moves in recent years before turning 21. Below is a timeline of 250 or 500 titles won by under 21s since 2010. Turns out that Tiafoe joins a very select yet well-known group of players.

What stand out most immediately when looking at this chart is how few titles were won by young ATP players prior to 2016. In fact, it only happened twice between 2010 and 2016, once for Milos Raonic and once for Bernard Tomic.

Since Jan 2016, the tables have completely turn and there has been a surge in under-21 title wins. There were 5 players who drove this surge prior to Tiafoe, Alexander Zverev being the most responsible for the trend with 4 title wins before turning 21.

2017, the year of Zverev’s run of 250 and 500 titles, was also the first year he won at a Masters, defeating Novak Djokovic for the title in Rome and Roger Federer for the Canada Masters title.

Although both Milos Raonic and Nick Kyrgios have come close, a Masters title still alludes them. So, as huge as the result in Delray looks, Tiafoe may still need a repeat or two before we can expect him to make a strong bid for something even bigger.

Stephanie Kovalchik avatar
About Stephanie Kovalchik
Tennis Data Scientist at the Game Insight Group at Tennis Australia and researcher at the Institute of Sport Exercise and Active Living at Victoria University.
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