Frances Tiafoe’s lionesque start to the season turned lamb-like on Thursday night.
The New York Open’s No. 2 seed and prime attraction lost to the unheralded Jason Jung, 6-3, 7-5, in a second-round match at the New York Open at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
Tiafoe, 21, has a career-high ranking of 29 after making a deep run at the Australian Open in January. He reached the quarterfinals and beat Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov along the way before losing to Rafael Nadal in three sets.
Tiafoe became a fan favorite of the Melbourne crowd for his emotional displays and was the crowd favorite on Thursday night, but they couldn’t come close to pulling him through.
Jung, a 29-year-old without a winning portfolio who had twice lost to Tiafoe in three-set Challenger matches, pretty much controlled the 1-hour, 27-minute contest. He didn’t play like the 143rd-ranked player in the world. While born in America, he plays under the auspices of Taipei.
The first set was all Jung. Tiafoe couldn’t seem to get his feet under him or his racket in front of him. He looked as if he hadn’t played since his Jan. 22 loss in Australia, which he hadn’t.
“I was definitely a little rusty,” he said. “Let’s not take away from Jason. I thought he played great tonight. He came after me, and I didn’t have an answer for him.”
That competitive rust is something that Jung was hoping for.
“Frances has had some time off since the Australian Open, so I knew if I had a good start and was on top of him, maybe he wouldn’t be as fast,” Jung said. “I took control in the beginning and it worked.”
Tiafoe raised his game a bit in the second set, but Jung dug into him in the seventh game for a break. Giving his fans a glimmer of hope, Tiafoe broke back in the 10th game with Jung serving for the match. Then he gave it right back, as a series of groundstroke errors proved too much to overcome, and Jung served out the match.
“I haven’t had many ATP main draws. Any time that I’m here, it’s a good opportunity,” Jung said. “Just a great chance to beat a great player who has done well this year already. Just be in the moment and play my game . . . There is definitely a lot of belief now.”
Jung will play Sam Querrey in the quarterfinals on Friday.