Chase Rubin: Focus on CoCo Vandeweghe and Frances Tiafoe
Chase Rubin runs a tennis program for Philadelphia’s inner-city youth, and has helped produce over 20 players who have gone to NCAA Division I programs. He is on a constant quest to produce a full-time pro-level tennis player, and is very happy about the resurgence of youth tennis in the United States. Today, he writes about young, up-and-coming players CoCo Vandeweghe and Frances Tiafoe.
If CoCo Vandeweghe’s surname sounds familiar, it is because she comes from a family of athletes. She’s the daughter of Olympic swimmer Tauna Vandeweghe, the granddaughter of former New York Knick Ernie Vandeweghe, and the niece of two-time NBA All-Star and current NBA vice-president of basketball operations Kiki Vandeweghe. As an seventeen-year-old, she started playing in the WTA, winning two ITF titles within two years. She kept on growing until she reached current height of 6’1”, giving her a distinct reach advantage over her opponents.
CoCo is known for her very strong serves; in 2014 alone, she hit more than 300 aces. She plays very aggressively, hitting the ball early and taking the ball close to the net. Her favorite shot is the forehand, and she prefers hard and grass courts. While she is just 25 years old, she has already reached the singles and doubles semifinals of the Australian Open, losing only to eventual champion Venus Williams, and is currently ranked 20th in the world for singles play. In addition, she has reached the mixed doubles finals at the Australian Open and the US Open, both in 2016. CoCo Vandeweghe’s star is still on the rise, and it won’t be long until we see her inside the top ten of the WTA rankings.
At nineteen years old, Frances Tiafoe has already breached the top 100 of the world rankings. His story could serve as an inspiration to everyone wanting to make it big in the world of tennis. The son of immigrants from Sierra Leone, he started playing tennis at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in Maryland, which his father helped build as a construction worker. His play was noticed by a tennis pro at the center, and he started training in earnest at the age of eight. When he was 15, he won the prestigious Dunlop Orange Bowl, defeating Stefan Kozlov; two years later, he again met Kozlov in the U18 National Championship, winning a five-set match and earning a ticket to the US Open.
Tiafoe’s tennis upbringing could be described as being done by the book – he grew up surrounded by tennis pros at the JTCC – but his game is all power and rawness. His shots are almost theatrical in their power, and his quickness shows in the way he flies around the court, reminding spectators of a young Roger Federer. He looks larger than his listed height of 6’2”, and has great on-court presence. However, there is still much to fix in Tiafoe’s game. Both his forehand and backhand techniques have a lot of extra movement, and his serve doesn’t involve as much wrist action as it normally should. But the ceiling is there for everyone to see, and with proper guidance, he could break into the top 50 in the world this year.