MELBOURNE — No sooner had Frances Tiafoe nailed down the most significant upset of this Australian Open to date with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 second-round win over No. 5 seed Kevin Anderson, he was celebrating.
He started screaming “C’mon,” and then took his fist from his left hand and started to pound on the muscle on his right arm in a display meant to accentuate just how strong he is.
The only issue that resulted from the Maryland native’s jubilant display Wednesday was that his necklace tangled into the button of his polo shirt. As it turned out a ball boy, clearly possessing excellent dexterity, skillfully released the necklace.
“It means the world to me,” Tiafoe told the crowd of beating the better-known South African. “I lost to Kevin three times last year. I was down a set-and-a-break today and it looks like he was getting the fourth.
“I just went to a different place. I dug deep. It’s just how bad you want it and I wanted it bad.”
The second-round victory ended the 39th-ranked Tiafoe’s six-match losing streak against top-10 opponents. The last time he pushed past a top-10 player was when he defeated 10th-ranked Juan Martin del Potro en route to his first career ATP title at the 2018 Delray Beach tournament last February. The win over del Potro was particularly poignant as the Argentine was Tiafoe’s childhood idol.
More: Frances Tiafoe admits he got nervous playing alongside Serena
More: Daughter’s celebrity doll ‘Qai Qai’ holds special place in Serena Williams’ family
More: Serena Williams stars in Super Bowl ad for a brand that salutes ‘ultimate first mover’
Anderson helped Tiafoe to secure the match when he double-faulted on a second break point in the 11th game of the fourth set. In the next game, Tiafoe managed to recover from facing two break points on his serve in the final game to claim the match with a winning volley.
Tiafoe is the son of immigrants from Sierra Leone who moved to the United States to give Frances, and his twin brother, Franklin, more opportunity in life. His father started working on the construction of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland, and stayed on to be the caretaker of the facility, which led to Frances’ introduction to the sport.
A superbly talented athlete, Tiafoe quickly garnered attention in junior circles when at age 15 he won the prestigious 18-and-under Orange Bowl tournament in South Florida. He was also a boys’ semifinalist at the 2014 US Open.
Tiafoe, who will turn 21 in five days, placed a request with the Margaret Court Arena crowd before he headed back to the locker room.
He asked the spectators to continue to cheer for him in his upcoming third-round encounter against Italian veteran Andreas Seppi. It’s a good thing for Tiafoe that Seppi bypassed Australian Jordan Thompson 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in the second round because there was no chance of loyal Australian fans siding with an American over one of their own.
The victory over Anderson, a 2017 US Open and 2018 Wimbledon finalist, finds Tiafoe equaling his best previous result at a major, which was reaching the Wimbledon third-round last year.
Anderson’s best results at the Australian Open is reaching the round-of-16 on three previous occasions. The 32-year-old arrived in Melbourne having won his sixth career title at the Pune, India, tournament, but he couldn’t build on that momentum to remain in the Australian Open mix.
On the women’s side, 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova, took out 24th seed Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-0, 6-2