On the heels of his first professional men’s singles title, 17-year-old tennis phenom Frances Tiafoe has decided to turn pro.
Tiafoe will sign with Wajid Syed of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation agency, and he will be the first tennis player on Roc Nation’s roster.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” Tiafoe said. “I’ve always wanted to be a professional tennis player.”
A native of Riverdale, Md., Tiafoe beat France’s Maxime Tabatruong, 6-1, 6-2, to win a $15,000 Futures tournament in Bakersfield, Calif., last month, but he said he and his family still hadn’t come to a decision on whether he would turn pro. He said he did not take the prize money to avoid jeopardizing his amateur status.
But the win provided momentum for Tiafoe to turn pro. When Tiafoe first started rising in the junior ranks, his parents said they wanted him to attend college first and stay an amateur. He made history in 2013 by winning the Orange Bowl boys’ 18s title at 15, becoming the youngest player to win the prestigious junior tournament.
“Me winning my first pro title a couple weeks ago, I think that helped,” Tiafoe said. “It was also me nagging them all of the time, saying, ‘I want to go pro.’ ”
Tiafoe will continue to train with Misha Kouznetsov, but where he will train now that he’s a professional hasn’t been decided yet.
He worked with Kouznetsov and Frank Salazar out of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, a USTA Regional Training Center, throughout his time as a junior.
Tiafoe spent Monday at the White House Easter Egg Roll, along with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, and he will next compete in the Sarasota Open, which begins qualifying rounds on April 11 in Florida.
One of Syed’s first moves as Tiafoe’s agent was to correct the spelling of his first name. Media, tournaments and official tennis Web sites have spelled his given name “Francis” for years. Apparently his name was misspelled on an entry form early in his career and no one bothered to correct the mistake.