How Frances Tiafoe Outplayed Feliciano Lopez in Acapulco

Frances Tiafoe US OPEN

Sixth seed Frances Tiafoe beat the Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez 6-2 7-6 in a second-round match at the ATP Acapulco Open in Mexico on Wednesday. The 41-year-old Lopez, one of the oldest players in the tour, tried hard, but could not quite match the American in the end. The match was over within a couple of hours with the 25-year-old American now set to face his compatriot Taylor Fritz, who beat Denis Shapovalov in the last 16, in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Lopez Rushes the Net Too Often

Whilst Lopez is not a pure serve-volleyer like Maxime Cressy or the retired Michael Llodra, the Spaniard does come to the net behind his serve as often as not, particularly in this late stage in his career, and he stuck to that strategy against Tiafoe. He also looked to chip-and-charge regularly, clearly aware that he could not match Tiafoe, who is 16 years his junior, from the baseline.

But the result was that Tiafoe had regular opportunity to pass him, with the slower surface giving the hard-hitting American plenty of time to set up powerful groundstrokes. Tiafoe’s cross-court backhand was particularly effective, winning him plenty of points including, incidentally, the final point of the match. Tiafoe’s fast start did not help Lopez either, with the American winning the first four games of the match to take what proved to be an unassailable lead in the opener.

Lopez’s second serve was exploited by Frances Tiafoe:

Lopez lived and died by his first serve. He managed to hit a number of aces, especially in the second set, and when Tiafoe did get it back into court, Lopez typically had an easy put away. However, his first-serve percentage was below 50% in the first set and even in the second set, which was much more competitive, Lopez only managed to land enough first deliveries to finish the match with a first-serve percentage of 50%.

That was crucial, as Tiafoe was not slow to exploit Lopez’s second serve. Lopez managed to win only 36% of the points behind his second serve in the opening set and although that improved dramatically in the second set it was not enough for him to take the match to a decider. He did manage to force a tiebreak and struck some highlight-reel worthy volleys, but at 6-6 in the breaker, Tiafoe raised his level, hitting a return winner past the onrushing Spaniard to set up a match point. He took it.

Main Photo Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports