If for some sad reason you’re a U.S. tennis stan and find yourself sick of big-serving lunk John Isner, you’d be wise to shift your loyalties to Frances Tiafoe, who serves as Isner’s perfect foil: Eighteen years old, closer to six feet tall than seven, spry, exceedingly mobile. My favorite part of Tiafoe’s game is the unruly, ostentatious loop on his forehand side, which feels like the right sort of cocky tic for a teenager growing into his talents. But this kind of athleticism comes a close second:
There’s plenty to appreciate here: That Tiafoe sprints a nearly full circle around his half of the court. That Alexander Sarkissian could have put that ugly ball anywhere, but it still somehow found his foe’s racket. That the announcer gloomily mumbles “No...no,” like he dropped his slice of pizza on the ground, and then realized it landed wet-side-down. And that Tiafoe disappears entirely from the frame after that casual flick of a half-volley. I like to think he ran right off the court like Derek Fisher.
Tiafoe won his match Monday at the Tiburon Challenger, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. While he may have lost to Isner back in the first round of the U.S. Open last month, you can count on his playing a role in the next generation of American tennis.