MELBOURNE: Frances Tiafoe says he has learned how to be dangerous in crunch situations after scoring one of the biggest wins of his career in sending fifth seed Kevin Anderson packing from the Australian Open.
The American world number 39, fresh from playing the mixed teams Hopman Cup with Serena Williams in Perth, came through the second round encounter 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.
A third-round berth equals his best ever Grand Slam result and the reward is a clash with veteran Italian Andreas Seppi.
“It means the world to me,” said Tiafoe, who will celebrate his 21st birthday on Sunday.
“I lost to him (Anderson) three times last year and when I was down a set and a break it looked like it would happen again. I dug deep and went to a different place.
“It’s all about competing, how bad you want it and I want it real bad. I’d love to get to the second week of a Slam for the first time,” he added.
South African Anderson, a Wimbledon finalist last year, struggled with an elbow injury early in the clash and couldn’t cope with Tiafoe’s power and finesse.
The American had not defeated a top 10 opponent since defeating Juan Martin del Porto in the second round of Delray Beach last year, a win he still ranks above the Anderson victory.
“Still my biggest win is probably DelPo in Delray, because of him being my idol,” he said.
“I’ve never felt something like that after winning a tennis match.”
Tiafoe, who achieved a new career-high ranking 11 times in 2017 and seven times last year, said he was fast learning how to handle the big moments, which was paying dividends in Melbourne.
“I’ve been telling you guys last year, I had a lot of wins, had a rough end to the season. Good off-season,” he said.
“I mean, these are the matches I feel like I’m dangerous. I always play pretty good in those situations. I’ve been in those situations quite a lot.
“I’m starting to feel more comfortable finishing the match, not just playing a match.”
With the dangerous Seppi awaiting him next, he is not dwelling on how far he might go.
“Everyone is good, man. It’s tough looking ahead. Look at today: he’s five in the world, I’m 39, I was able to beat him,” he said.
“It’s so tight now. Anybody plays a good match, you can beat anybody on a given day. You don’t take anybody and underestimate.”