'Appreciative' Tiafoe wins in ATP World Tour debut

Francis Tiafoe debuts in Atlanta.

By RIck Limpert, Special to the BB&T Atlanta Open

As the Saturday morning rain tapered off, blue skies greeted a 16-year old American, making his ATP World Tour debut at the BB&T Atlanta Open.

It could be a sign.

Frances Tiafoe, the product of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in suburban Washington, D.C. is a much decorated and talked about junior player. Many are projecting him to be the next great American tennis player.

Could this be the start of a long and successful pro career?

Showing fight, determination and maturity well beyond his years, the imposing Tiafoe dispatched a seasoned veteran from Monaco, Benjamin Balleret, 6-4, 6-2 in a little less than an hour. Tiafoe showed a dominant forehand, slick footwork and big serve that's only going to get bigger.

Tiafoe was all smiles as he emerged from the court and was greeted by about 100 fans, mostly fans around his age that offered encouragement and wanted what a typical teenager would want.

A selfie.

"I had a great time, I really enjoyed myself," Tiafoe said after the match. "I'm glad I got my first win in an ATP World Tour event and I look forward to playing again."

Tiafoe also wanted to make sure he thanked tournament Eddie Gonzalez for the opportunity.

"It's good experience. I'd like to thank the tournament director for putting me on Stadium Court and the wildcard."

Other late afternoon winners on Saturday included Facundo Mena of Argentina, American Jean-Yves Aubone, former Georgia Tech standout, Juan-Carlos Spir and Macon native and University of Alabama player, Becker O'Shaughnessey.

All of the second round qualifying matches will take place on Sunday at Atlantic Station, beginning at 11 a.m.

Tiafoe next takes on another experienced player in Michael Venus of New Zealand. That will be the third match Sunday, on Stadium Court.

American tennis fans will be watching.