Frances Tiafoe was feeling “under the weather” entering his first-round matchup Monday at the Millennium Estoril Open. He must have felt even worse as he trailed Dusan Lajovic by a set and a break, but after an off-court visit with the physio, he was able to take command of a match that seemed to be slipping away.
The fifth-seeded American dominated the second half of the match to run away with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-0 victory.
“I’m not feeling very well. I’m a little but under the weather,” said Tiafoe, who reached the Estoril final on his 2018 debut. “It was tough for me to move or breathe and stuff like that. The physio saved me today. He took me in there, down a set and a break, and I started feeling a little bit better.”
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Tiafoe saved a pair of break points to avoid going behind 0-3 in the second set before briefly leaving the court. When he returned, he won 12 of the last 15 games — including the last eight in a row — to advance.
His started his comeback by connecting on some all-or-nothing shots as he looked to shorten the points. After getting back on serve, he began to win points in many other ways, including claiming the long rallies that Lajovic owned throughout the opening set.
It was all working for the American in set three, as he mixed in some drop shots to go along with his baseline brilliance to see out the match with ease.
Following the victory, he gave a special shout-out to a young fan named Pedro who had watched him on his 2018 final run. Tiafoe secured tickets for the youngster to watch Monday’s match.
“I didn’t want to give up,” Tiafoe said. “I wanted to win so he could watch me play here all week.”
Addressing the Portuguese crowd as as a whole, he later added: “I love the fans here. You guys get so much behind me. You guys love the tennis I bring, so that means a lot to me.”
Tiafoe will play Portugal’s Nuno Borges in the second round on Wednesday after the 25-year-old wild card advanced past Pablo Andujar via a second-set retirement.
Soonwoo Kwon also advanced on Monday, beating Benoit Paire, 6-4, 7-5.