Frances Tiafoe: The Next Great American Champion
Some players, you just like! You like their strokes, you like their attitude, you like their walk and you cheer for them whenever they play! Frances Tiafoe is one of them. His ever-present smile, win or lose, is contagious. His love of the game is apparent in his every move and his enthusiasm for competition oozes out of him.
The son of Sierra Leonean immigrants, Tiafoe was raised at a USTA Regional Training Center in Maryland. His father was the tennis center custodian, which allowed Frances to hang around tennis players. As a teenager, he won the 2013 Orange Bowl at 15, making him the youngest boys’ singles champion in the history of the tournament. At 17, he participated in the main draw of the French Open as the youngest American since Michael Chang in 1989. He also won the US Junior National Championship and enjoyed success on the ATP Challenger Tour, reaching 13 finals and winning 4.
Frances won his first ATP title at the 2018 Delray Beach Open. He had entered the tournament as a wild card and winning it made him the youngest American to win an ATP title since Andy Roddick in 2002. He followed this success with a great run at this year’s Australian Open, reaching the quarterfinals; an accomplishment that helped him reach his career-high of No. 29 in February of 2019. Currently, Tiafoe is ranked 39 in the world, the youngest American in the Top 50.
His success on the court, coupled with his popularity, has made Tiafoe the center of attention of many looking for the next great American player. He was recently featured in the Tennis.com The 21 & Under Club, where Ed McGrogan, correctly, refers to him as a fan favorite, who “imparts his physical gifts into every shot he hits. He can play with touch when needed, and the best-of-five set format at Slams may suit him best of all.”
Tiafoe has also been covered by Jerry Bembry in “France Tiafoe: The Story Behind Tennis’ Unlikely Hero.” Bembry wrote about an incident where some “kids, looking like a million bucks in their designer gear, teased Tiafoe.” Having to deal with such unfairness and challenges at a young age, I believe that is what made him into the athlete we see today. “The circumstances in my life have definitely changed,” said Tiafoe “But those poor, poor jokes back then really hurt. It made you felt, in the back of your mind, that you weren’t cut from the same cloth.” And he wasn’t! He was cut from a superior cloth! Becoming a good player after having access to top facilities, best coaches and the most expensive gear, doesn’t seem impressive. Pushing against all odds, just through perseverance, discipline and the love of the game is what is meaningful.
So let the fancy cars drop off the well-to-do kids at the top country clubs; what makes a champion is heart and physical prowess, and Tiafoe has them in abundance!
We are looking forward to France Tiafoe representing the US in the second week of many Grand Slams to come.