Francis Tiafoe of JTCC notches historic Orange Bowl victory

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Francis Tiafoe of JTCC after his historic Orange Bowl victory on Sunday, December 15 (Photo Credit: Art Seitz)

Rewind your mind back to February 3, 2013.

The Baltimore Ravens were in complete control of SuperBowl XLVII as they had built a 22 point advantage in the third quarter.  The 49ers were listless and on the verge of a crushing defeat.

Then the lights went out.

Following the incident, the 49ers roared back and cut the deficit to two in the fourth quarter.  They outscored the Ravens 25 to 6 following the blackout and were a scant couple of yards away from pulling out the unthinkable.

As alluded to in yesterday’s post, momentum is finicky and unpredictable.  It takes many forms and can strike when least expected.

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Photo Credit: Art Seitz

For Francis Tiafoe of Junior Tennis Champions Center, the second set against Stefan Kozlov, fellow Metropolia Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships finalist, was analogous to the SuperBowl power outage.  Momentum was clearly on his side after he erased a 1-4 deficit and then saved two set points in the first frame.  Tiafoe eventually forced a tiebreaker before securing the first set, 7-6(3).

But Kozlov was not ready to hand over the title.  He stormed back and ripped off 6 straight games to bagel Tiafoe in the second frame.  It was a lights-out performance that figured to be a knockout punch.  Considering the stakes, an 0-6 score could have ravished Tiafoe’s psyche.

The second frame was only a blip on the radar.  The two Americans, the first since Timothy Neilly and Donald Young to play in an Orange Bowl final, entangled in a break-laden third set.  At one point, there were five consecutive breaks of serve.  Tiafoe snapped the streak by holding at 5-2.  Kozlov again refused to go quietly and held his own serve.  But Tiafoe responded defiantly and wasted no time in cinching the victory.  He raced out to a 40-15 advantage and only needed one match point to cap off a historic win.

“I’ve lost to Kozlov four or five times, I’ve never beaten him before,” Tiafoe noted to zootennis.com.  “Today, I was for sure the underdog. Kozlov’s done a lot this year, he’s played unbelievable, so I was very happy.”

Tiafoe is the youngest player in the 67 year history of the Orange Bowl to win the boys’ 18s division.  He joined the ranks of Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Björn Borg as Orange Bowl victors.

“I called my dad and my mom right after, my brother, I was very excited,”  Tiafoe told zootennis.com.  “I usually call them at night after my matches. But this time I called them right away.”

Might the SuperBowl of junior tennis tournaments, otherwise known as the Easter Bowl, be next on his list?

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