Many athletes draw recognition because of what they do in their respective sport, but their life stories are often what make them even greater. Frances Tiafoe, for instance, had to go through a lot before making a name for himself in tennis. Get to know more about the American sensation here.
Frances Tiafoe is an American professional tennis player who was born in Maryland on January 10, 1998. His parents are Constant Tiafoe and Alphina Kamara, both immigrants from West African country Sierra Leone. He turned pro in 2015 and went on to win one ATP singles title. Tiafoe is currently world No. 19.
Before we can talk about Frances’ childhood, we have to go a little bit back in time. His parents Constant and Alphina were both immigrants from Sierra Leone who escaped the civil war that began in the country in 1991, hoping to find better opportunities elsewhere.
After escaping from the Sierra Leone war separately, they met in Washington DC to start a new life in the US capital. While Constant made a living as a day laborer, Alphina worked as a nurse. The couple established in Hyattsville, where they gave birth to twins Frances and Franklin.
Though the family didn’t have many privileges, tennis became part of Frances’ life from the very beginning. He was still a baby when Constant was hired to work on the construction of the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) in College Park. Constant was later named Head of Maintenance at the JTCC, and the facility eventually became the place where everything started for his son.
With their father working extra hours and their mother taking night shifts at the hospital, Frances and his twin brother Franklin spent nights in a storage room at the JTCC. Misha Kouznetsov, a tennis instructor that started to work at the center, noticed Frances was there all the time and therefore took interest in teaching him how to play.
The kid proved to be a fast learner, as only a few months later, Frances was already dominating in his group age and also against older students. By the time he was 12, he decided to pursue a career in tennis.
Though his intention was met with certain skepticism from his parents, Tiafoe was determined to make his dream come true. Only a few years later, he was proving himself he made the right decision.
On the wheels of an under-14 world championship, Tiafoe went on to become the youngest ever winner of the Orange Bowl in Florida at 15. On top of that, he also reached world no. 2 on the ITF junior ranking.
Tiafoe turned pro when he was still a teenager, making his first appearance in a Grand Slam at only 17 years of age. By making the main draw of the 2015 French Open (Roland Garros), Tiafoe became the first American to play in the tournament at that age since 1989.
Even though he grew up in an era when the likes of Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal dominated the sport, Tiafoe admired Juan Martín del Potro. Eventually. Frances beat the Argentine star in the second round of the 2018 Delray Beach Open en route to his first ATP title.
Having shone as a junior, Tiafoe didn’t struggle to settle in the ATP Tour. Before turning 18, he was already inside the top 200 in the ATP ranking.
Before he was 18 years of age, he had already cracked the top 200 in the world ranking. In 2018, Tiafoe made a statement in the tour by beating his idol del Potro in the second round of the Delray Beach Open, paving the way towards his first and only ATP title to date. That saw the American sensation, who became Delray Beach’s first wild-card champion, rise to the top 50 of the ATP ranking.
However, many believe it wasn’t until early 2019 that the world got to know Tiafoe. Following a hard-fought victory over Andreas Seppi in the third round of the Australian Open, Tiafoe took down Grigor Dimitrov in four sets to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time.
A result that made noise in the US, with the likes of LeBron James congratulating the tennis player, Tiafoe rose to the top 30 in the rankings but the best was yet to come. In 2021, he pulled off a shock against third-seeded and recent French Open finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first round of Wimbledon.
In 2022, Tiafoe upset Andrey Rublev in three sets to become the first male American player since Roddick in 2006 to reach the US Open semifinals, achieving his deepest run in a Grand Slam.
Currently the world No. 19, Tiafoe has stood out from most of the players in the circuit because of his aggressive style of play and his unorthodox forehand.
Some of his major achievements in his young professional career are:
With Nadal and Novak Djokovic soon to follow in Federer’s footsteps, a changing of guard in tennis is imminent. Carlos Alcaraz, Andrey Rublev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Alexander Zverev are seen as the potential leaders of the next generation. Will Frances Tiafoe be part of it too?
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