Tiafoe Derails Delpo To Set Chung Clash
American posts first win in three attempts over Argentine
#NextGenATP American Frances Tiafoe has landed a breakthrough victory over childhood idol and No. 2 seed Juan Martin del Potro to reach the Delray Beach Open quarter-finals on Thursday. The 20-year-old needed four match points to eke out a 7-6(6), 4-6, 7-5 win – his first in three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings with the Argentine.
It sets up a showdown with reigning #NextGenATP Finals champion and No. 8 seed Hyeon Chung after the South Korean’s earlier defeat of qualifier Franko Skugor. It means Chung is the only seed to reach the quarter-finals, marking just the second time in the tournament's history that only one seed has reached the last eight (No. 8 seed Sanguinetti in 1998).
Del Potro, the 2011 champion and a semi-finalist for the past two years, had posted a straight-sets victory over Tiafoe in their most recent outing in the first round of this year’s Australian Open. It followed a narrow third-set tie-break triumph in Acapulco last season.
And after a return to the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings in January for the first time since August 2014, del Potro again started favourite in the match against the World No. 91. This was, after all, a tournament he won on debut in 2011 and reached the semi-finals the past two years.
This time, though, it was the American who capitalised on his opponent’s missed opportunities, with Del Potro letting an early 3-0 lead and four set points dissipate to concede the opening set in a tie-break, 8/6.
Spurred into action at the frustration of having let the first set slide from his grasp, del Potro broke immediately and carried the momentum to serve out the second set 6-4. With the match going to a deciding set, both players were rock-solid on serve with the only sniff of an early break for either coming when the Argentine saved a break point for 1-1.
Serving to stay in the match at 4-5, del Potro saved a first match point before saving two more at 5-6. On his fourth chance, Tiafoe secured just the second Top 10 win of his career to reach back-to-back quarter-finals (l. Anderson in New York) for the first time.
“It’s unbelievable definitely. Two weeks in a row in the quarters,” Tiafoe said. “I really wanted that win to make a statement. I’ve had a tonne of tough losses against top guys.
“Just wanted to get over the line. This is just my second or third win [over a Top 10 opponent]. I feel like this is going to be a good year for me. I feel like I’m playing well.”
The win sets a first-time showdown with last year’s #NextGenATP Finals champion and Australian Open semi-finalist Hyeon Chung. The 21-year-old South Korean held steady to defeat Croatian qualifier Franko Skugor in the second round 6-4, 7-6(4).
Chung’s win over the World No. 303 in the ATP Rankings puts him through to his third quarter-final of the season after losing to David Ferrer at the same stage in Auckland and following it up with a win over Tenny Sandgren to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open.
“We’re good friends. We’ve practised together a tonne, but we’ve never played a match,” Tiafoe said. “I’m really happy to play against him. He’s hot right now, coming off an unbelievable Australian Open. Tough conditions will even the playing field pretty good. If I can start well and hit my forehand good I’ll have a good chance.”