Eighth-seeded Frances Tiafoe wrapped up first-round action at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com with a confident win on Friday over Donald Young, 6-3, 6-4.
During the off-season, 2018 champion Tiafoe picked up the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award in the 2020 ATP Awards. He continued to shine on the courts with his first victory of the new year over qualifier Young, a fellow American ranked No. 327 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.
“It’s never easy playing someone you like a lot or have known for so long,” Tiafoe said in his on-court interview. “But I competed great tonight, I thought, [even though] I wasn’t feeling the ball as well as I would like… It’s a work in progress.”
Tiafoe broke Young four times en route to victory, keeping the 31-year-old’s serve under constant pressure. Young faced break points in all but one of his five service games in the opening set as Tiafoe surged ahead to take it 6-3.
Young raised his level going into the second set to hang with Tiafoe, and the pair locked into thrilling baseline rallies. They stayed on serve after trading a pair of early breaks, but Tiafoe applied some scoreboard pressure as Young served to stay in the match at 5-4. An untimely double fault – one of Young’s six in the match – sealed the seventh seed’s spot in the second round.
“This court is definitely one of my favourite courts in the world,” Tiafoe said. “At 20 years old, winning a title here was really special back in 2018. Hopefully this year, or one of these years, I can do it again.”
Earlier in the day, Cameron Norrie dropped just three games against JC Aragone to make a strong start to the season in South Florida.
The 25-year-old British player settled quickly into the blustery conditions and was aggressive in taking his chances on the big points against Aragone, who was looking for his first ATP Tour win. Norrie saved all three of the break points he faced and won 84% of points behind his first serve en route to a 6-2, 6-1 victory.
“I knew that it would be tricky playing as the favourite and in these conditions,” Norrie said. “I served really well today, I really relied on that and I was pretty solid. I don’t think I missed too many balls. I didn’t really go for much, but I was able to relax a bit towards the end and play more aggressive. It’s playing pretty lively out here, so I’m just glad to get the win. It was not easy.”
The lefty was made to work from the start as Aragone pushed him in two lengthy games to open the match, but Norrie fought through to eventually break for a 3-1 lead. As Aragone felt the growing scoreboard pressure, Norrie eventually outlasted the American in a baseline battle. Aragone hit an error into the net to surrender the first set.
Norrie kept his foot firmly on the accelerator in the second set as he once again broke first, building up a 3-1 lead. He raised his level as the match wound to a close, claiming the next nine of 10 points to win after just 67 minutes on court. Up next, Norrie will take on third-seeded Adrian Mannarino in a battle between lefties.[WATCH LIVE 1]
Joining them is the oldest player to win a match on the ATP Tour since Jimmy Connors in 1995: Ivo Karlovic, the 2015 champion who took down seventh-seeded Pablo Andujar, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in a two-hour and 18-minute battle.
“Almost every match that I win, now with my age, it [makes] history,” quipped 41-year-old Karlovic in his on-court interview. Known for his booming serve as well as his towering height, the Croatian also struck 27 aces tonight against Andujar – his personal best at the tournament. The tournament record for aces in a single match is 30 hit by John Isner against Peter Gojowczyk in 2018.
Elsewhere, American qualifier Christian Harrison moved on after securing a 6-4, 6-2 victory against Tomas Martin Etcheverry, while countryman Bjorn Fratangelo also advanced with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Kevin King.
Ecuadorian qualifier Roberto Quiroz is also through after a 7-6(1), 6-3 victory over wild card Noah Rubin, and Colombia’s Daniel Elahi Galan claimed his first victory of the season over Andrej Martin, 6-4, 6-4.