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The Latest: Frances Tiafoe wins Sarasota Open title

Frances Tiafoe is one of two Americans scheduled to play in the Sarsaota Open singles final Sunday.
Frances Tiafoe is one of two Americans scheduled to play in the Sarsaota Open singles final Sunday. zwittman@bradenton.com

The Sarasota Open wraps up Sunday at United Tennis Academy with the doubles and singles championships. The latest from the final day of the ATP Challenger Tour event:

5:31 p.m.

If everything goes according to plan, the Sarasota Open may be the final site of a Challenger Tour win for Frances Tiafoe. The 19-year-old No. 3 seed rolled to a 6-3, 6-4 win against fellow American Tennys Sandgren at James T. Driscoll Stadium Centre Court for the third Challenger win of his career.

He’s going up to the Tallahassee Tennis Challenger this week, where he’s been the runner-up in each of the past two years, but after that there may be no more chances to see Tiafoe on the Challenger Tour.

“I don’t see myself playing too many Challengers later,” Tiafoe said. “I want to definitely move on to playing more Tour events and stuff like that.”

Tiafoe entered the week ranked No. 87 and will jump to a new career high after his win at United Tennis. After Tallahassee, he’ll head to Europe for a trio of warm-up tournaments ahead of the French Open.

The victory capped an eventful week for Tiafoe in Manatee County. On Tuesday, he became something of a viral sensation when a couple having sex in a neighboring condominium could be heard having sex and he shouted, “It can’t be that good!”

And then, on Sunday, he won a professional tournament with his father, Frances Tiafoe Sr., in the crowd for the first time.

“It means a lot. He’s never seen me win a pro tournament,” Tiafoe Jr. said. “Since I was 9, 10 years old I was telling him I was going to be pro and for him to see me win a pro event means a lot.”

4:02 p.m.

Frances Tiafoe won the first set of the Sarasota Open singles final 6-3 in a match that has already lasted 46 minutes.

Tiafoe, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, said Saturday he expects this to be a three-set match, as most of his previous meetings with fellow American Tennys Sandgren have been. So far, their contrasting styles have been apparent. Tiafoe is mostly holding serve, while Sandgren has struggled and is instead relying on his mobility to extend points. At one point during the penultimate game, Sandgren shouted, “How much for a first serve?” Two points later he was broken and fell into a 5-3 hole.

Tiafoe, the United States’ top prospect, is now one set away away from his third Challenger Tour victory. He last won in October at the Stockton ATP Challenger in California. A win here at James T. Driscoll Stadium Centre Court will shoot him closer to the top 50 of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) singles rankings. He currently sits at No. 87, one spot off his career best, and his 100 points for a win could place him as high as No. 70.

2:37 p.m.

Six days ago, a partnership began between Austria’s Jurgen Melzer and Scott Lipsky of the United States. The two 35-year-olds came to the Sarasota Open after a pair of career’s following vastly divergent paths. Melzer was a former Top-10 player in the world in both singles and doubles, according to the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rankings, with a pair of Grand Slam doubles titles to his name. Lipsky had never cracked the top 300 as a singles player and peaked as the No. 21 doubles player in the world back in 2013.

Their week at United Tennis didn’t begin particularly well either. They didn’t win a single game in the first set they played at the Challenger Tour event. By Sunday, they had somehow become a powerhouse. Melzer and Lipsky captured the open’s doubles championship at James T. Driscoll Stadium Centre Court with a 6-2, 6-4 win against Canada’s Peter Polansky and Stefan Kozlov of the United States.

“Scott is a great server and I make a lot of returns, so I think we kind of fit good together,” Melzer said. “I think we deserved to win the tournament.”

The title is Melzer’s second Challenger victory since he returned from a 10-month absence in July. He nearly pulled off a double this week by reaching the semfiinal of the singles tournament before falling to Frances Tiafoe on Saturday.

Tiafoe, the No. 3 seed, is about to square off against fellow American Tennys Sandgren in the singles final.

Even though singles play is where Melzer’s name may be familiar from — and he seems potentially headed back toward the top 100 there — he was always even better as a doubles player, something Lipsky learned from the other side of the net. This week, he had a chance to see it as a teammate.

“Jurgen’s beaten me a few times in doubles. I think I’ve got him once or twice,” Lipsky said. “He’s a great player, obviously. He was Top 10 singles and doubles. He has a lot of really good things for doubles. He returns well. He’s not afraid to be at the net.

“When he’s returning well, man, there’s a lot of pressure put on them and it’s going to be good for me.”

1:39 p.m.

After dropping the opening game of the Sarasota Open doubles championship, Austria’s Jurgen Melzer and Scott Lipsky of the United States rattled off five straight games on their way to a 6-2, opening-set win.

Melzer and Lipsky’s experience showed during the first set. The 35-year-olds’ communication had them positioned perfectly, especially in contrast with a slightly sloppier effort from Canada’s Peter Polansky and American Stefan Kozlov.

6Jurgen Melzer’s career-best Association of Tennis Professionals doubles ranking. The 35-year-old from Austria is in the midst of a comeback.

There’s a chance for Melzer and Lipsky to make short work of their younger counterparts, but no matter how brief the second set is, the all-American singles final between Tennys Sandgren and No. 3-seed Frances Tiafoe won’t start until at least 3 p.m. after a doubles championship ceremony.

1:10 p.m.

The Sarasota Open doubles championship is underway at James T. Driscoll Stadium Centre Court and there’s a chance it winds up just as compelling as the singles final. Austria’s Jurgen Mezler, a two-time Grand Slam doubles champion, is paired with Scott Lipsky of the United States against Canada’s Peter Polansky and American Stefan Kozlov.

At 35, Melzer is in the throes of a comeback and fell in a third-set tiebreaker to American Frances Tiafoe, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, in a singles semifinal Saturday. As a doubles player, he peaked at No. 6 in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rankings and has made more than $9 million. A win Sunday would be his first ATP doubles title of the year after winning once in 2016.

Lipsky, Melzer’s partner, is another 35-year-old veteran who peaked as the No. 21 doubles player in the world. Sunday would be his first doubles title with Melzer. He most recently won in 2016 with fellow American Eric Butorac.

Both Kozlov, a 19-year-old, and Polansky, 28, are searching for their first doubles titles. Both are top-150 singles players.

David Wilson: 941-745-7057, @DBWilson2

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