After dazzling 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal to reach the US Open quarter-final On Monday, Frances Tiafoe threw down his racquet and covered his face in astonishment.
It looked like a defining moment in the 24-year-old American’s career; the culmination of hard work and raw talent that has long been heralded as the potential future of men’s tennis in the country.
Now, with Tiafoe reaching the semi-finals beating Andrey Rublev in straight sets on Wednesday, he has recorded the best Grand Slam result of his career – the achievement is all the more impressive considering his humble beginnings.
The Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd were thrilled with the play of Tiafoe, the first black American man to reach a US Open semi-final since Ashe in 1972. And in a match where he did not drop a service match against the world No. 11, he couldn’t let them down.
“I feel so comfortable in courts like this. This court is amazing. You are so far behind me, you know I want to play and give my best. I always find a way one way or another on this terrain. I always try to play good tennis and I was,” he said in an on-court interview right after math. Let’s enjoy this one. We have two other guys. We have two more.
Tiafoe’s road to tennis is anything but traditional.
His the parents met in the United States after leaving Sierra Leone and had twins together, Franklin and Frances.
Their father, Constant Tiafoe, started working at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in Washington, DC in 1999 and eventually moved into one of his vacant storage rooms while working around the clock.
His two boys sometimes stayed with him, sleeping on a massage table, while their mother worked night shifts as a nurse.
The unusual gateway into the sport gave Tiafoe the opportunity to start developing his skills, and after he started training at the facility, he didn’t look back.
“Obviously I wasn’t the rich kid or I didn’t have all the new stuff or whatever. But I was just living life. I could play tennis for free, the sport that I loved,” he said. he said CNN Sports in 2015, adding that he wouldn’t change his upbringing for anything.
She was asked on Wednesday what message people should take from her story.
“I mean, anyone can do it, honestly. Obviously it’s a cliché, but I think if you’re really passionate about something… Everyone has a gift,” he said , adding that his passion and obsession was tennis.
Driven by his parents’ work ethic, he won the prestigious Orange Bowl – one of tennis’ most prized junior tournaments – at age 15, becoming the youngest men’s singles champion in tournament history.
He joined a list of former champions that included Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Ivan Lendl, Jim Courier, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.
It was a sign of things to come.
Tiafoe turned pro in 2015 and began to learn about the rigors of senior touring.
He broke into the world top 100 and started to assert himself at Grand Slams – reaching his first quarter-final at the Australian Open in 2019 before losing to Nadal.
Three years later and he found himself in another quarter-final as world number 26 on Wednesday, but this time he felt more ready to seize the opportunity.
“Honestly, when I came on the scene, I wasn’t mentally ready and mature enough,” he said on the pitch after beating Nadal. “I was able to evolve and I have a great team around me.
“I’m happy to have won in front of my mum, my dad, my girlfriend and my team and see them see what I did.”
As he cements himself as a competitor on the court, Tiafoe also pursues social justice.
In 2022, he told CNN Sport that the lack of diversity in sport had made him feel like an “outsider”, and he vowed to continue fighting for equality while he still had the flat. -shape to do it.
He created a protest video in 2022 to raise awareness of racial injustices after the death of George Floyd sparked protests across the world.
Working with a host of black players and coaches – such as Serena Williams and Coco Gauff – he posted the “Rackets Down, Hands Up” video to his social media.
“Are we going to help everyone? Of course not, but I will definitely help as many people as possible. It’s my duty,” he said. told CNN Sport at the time.
His performances even caught the eye of some of the biggest names in the sport, with NBA star LeBron James congratulating Tiafoe on reaching the quarter-finals.
“Thank you big brother. We still have work to do,” Tiafoe replied on Twitter.
Don’t get me wrong, though, this isn’t an overnight success. It’s the product of thousands of hours of hard work and a mindset that won’t accept rejection.
However, while the weight of a nation rests on her shoulders, Tiafoe has always focused on her parents’ pride.
“With them trying so hard, I felt like I didn’t want to let them down,” he told CNN Sport in 2015. for granted.”
On Wednesday, his coach, Wayne Ferreira, said Tiafoe’s story was cinematic material, but first he had to win the US Open or another Grand Slam event.
“You only get movies if you do well,” he said. “But his story is very unique, and it’s a beautiful story. And he’s very humble. He’s a very, very, very nice person. Very big heart and kind. You have to love him. He’s really special .