The BNP Paribas Open has not always been Frances Tiafoe’s best event, but the American made a good start this year with a 6-4, 6-4 win against Frenchman Benoit Paire on Thursday evening in the first round.
Tiafoe was previously 1-4 at the ATP Masters 1000 event, but he looked comfortable and focussed on Stadium 1, where he triumphed in his first match since the US Open in 62 minutes.
“I definitely took a long time off after the Open, the longest time I’ve taken in the middle of the season in a while, so [I was] a little rusty in the beginning and in the days leading up I wasn’t feeling great,” Tiafoe said in his on-court interview. “Happy to just get a first round under my belt. Obviously tonight was up and down, Benoit wasn’t having the best of days, but you take that.”
The 23-year-old broke serve four times and won 46 per cent of his return points against Paire, who showed his frustration after failing to find much rhythm. After the match, Tiafoe immediately returned to the practice court for 2-on-1 drills with coach Wayne Ferreira, brother Franklin Tiafoe and hitting partner Jordi Arconada.
“You just focus on your side. This isn’t my first rodeo, I’ve been on Tour for a little bit now, so I know how to handle situations. But it’s never easy, because he’s so talented,” Tiafoe said of Paire. “[You] just focus on what you can do, holding serve, trying to minimise your mistakes and making it super tough for him.”
The Nomadic Life With… Frances Tiafoe
Tiafoe will next challenge 32nd seed Sebastian Korda, a #NextGenATP American. Their only previous ATP Head2Head meeting came at the 2018 New York Open, where Tiafoe emerged victorious in three sets. Korda was a 17-year-old wild card who had just won the Australian Open boys’ singles title.
Paul, who was on a three-match losing run heading into the match, utilised his dominant first serve and returning prowess to pull through in straight sets. The American won 81 per cent (26/32) of his first-serve points, and also managed to break the lefty’s serve on three occasions.
By taking the court today Lopez broke the ATP Masters 1000 appearance record, playing in his 139th event, passing Roger Federer. Lopez also holds the record for the most consecutive Grand Slam appearances with 78.