Frances Tiafoe Emerges as an Australian Open Dark Horse

Frances Tiafoe in action at the ATP Tokyo Open.

No. 16 seed Frances Tiafoe has gotten off to a very fast start in Melbourne and has emerged as a candidate to make a deep run at the 2023 Australian Open. The 24-year-old has started his season in terrific form. Tiafoe was vital to a United States team that lifted the inaugural United Cup title. His five singles win in the United Cup, paired with two victories in Melbourne, has Tiafoe sitting with a perfect 7-0 record in 2023. He has dropped just two sets in seven matches.

Frances Tiafoe Emerges as Australian Open Dark Horse

Looking at Tiafoe’s wins

Tiafoe started his 2023 Australian Open campaign with a 6-3 6-3 6-7(5) 7-6(6) victory over Daniel Altmaier. He pounded 82 winners and only 43 unforced errors. Although Tiafoe had a chance to serve out the match at 5-4 in the third set, being pushed for another hour may not have been the worst thing for the American. He was able to feel some pressure and work his way through it, something a player would much rather do in one of their opening matches.

Tiafoe came out during his second match focused and motivated to make quick work of 17-year-old qualifier Juncheng Shang. He ousted Shang 6-4 6-4 6-1 in one hour and 58 minutes. Tiafoe controlled the match from start to finish with his power from the baseline and variety at the net. It was a clinical display of tennis against a young player with nothing to lose.

One of the keys to Tiafoe’s run to the 2022 US Open semifinals was the emergence of his dynamic and powerful serve. His serve has only seemed to grow over the past few months and is paying major dividends in Melbourne. He has hammered 44 aces and only four double faults through two matches this week. He is knocking in first serves at a 63 percent clip and is winning 82 percent of those points.

Tiafoe seems to grow more comfortable with every match he plays. He has undoubtedly become a fan favorite and is a player known to engage the crowd. As he progresses through the draw, having a rowdy Australian crowd on his side can pay dividends.

Looking ahead

The American will take on Karen Khachanov in the third round. The match will take place on Friday, which just so happens to be Tiafoe’s 25th birthday. Khachanov holds the 2-0 record over Tiafoe, with both wins coming at Wimbledon. Even so, Tiafoe will be the favorite in the match and should like his chances to advance.

Looking further down the road, No. 31 seed Yoshihito Nishioka would be the only potential-seeded matchup in the fourth round. Rafael Nadal was waiting in the wings but was ousted by American Mackenzie McDonald. With the 22-time Grand Slam Champion out of the draw, Tiafoe is the favorite to reach the quarterfinals. Like any Slam, his potential quarterfinal match would not be a walk in the park. Daniil Medvedev, Hubert Hurckaz, Denis Shapovalov, or Sebastian Korda are all potential matchups for Tiafoe.

Frances Tiafoe will take each match as it comes, but with his current form and how the draw has opened up, he is primed for a deep run in Melbourne.

Main Photo from Getty.