Frances Tiafoe says she hopes to inspire a new generation of black tennis players after becoming the first African-American male in 54 years to win the US Open.
The 24-year-old lit up this year’s championship after a mammoth run that saw him eliminate Rafael Nadal ahead of the quarter-final demolition of Russian Andrey Rublev on Wednesday.
Tiafoe’s 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/0), 6-4 win over Rublev left the 22nd seed on his way to becoming the first black player to win the Open since Arthur Ash in 1968.
Tiafoe wants her performances in New York to leave a lasting mark on American tennis.
“Every time I win, I just want to inspire a bunch of people to know that anything is possible,” Tiafoe said.
“At the end of the day, I love that because of Frances Tiafoe there are a lot of people of color playing tennis.
“That’s obviously a goal for me. That’s why I’m here trying so hard.”
Tiafoe was introduced to tennis at a young age, after his father, who moved to the US to escape Sierra Leone’s civil war in the early 1990s, took a job as a janitor at a tennis training center in Maryland.
“I was playing tennis for hours and hours around the game, absorbing the game, watching the game,” Tiafoe said.
“It was my life. The only thing I really watched growing up was the Tennis Channel. I mean, you end up falling in love with it.”
Prior to Wednesday, Tiafoe’s best Grand Slam result was a quarter-final appearance at the Australian Open in 2019.
– ‘Cinderella’s Story’ –
But after beating Nadal on Monday and taking care of Rublev on Wednesday, Tiafoe has American fans daring to dream he can go all the way to win an inaugural Slam.
“I love playing in front of crowded people,” Tiafoe said. “I love showing the world what I can do… Seeing how many people I can support. It means a lot.”
Huge crowds of well-wishers surrounded Tiafoe as he conducted post-game television interviews in the lobby of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center on Wednesday.
“That’s love, man,” Tiafoe said later. “I really appreciate it. You know, these things thrill me for sure.
“Seeing people screaming your name, just loving what you’re doing. That’s amazing. That’s what it’s all about.
“Everyone loves a Cinderella story. (I’m) just trying to do one.”
Against Rublev on Wednesday, Tiafoe came to victory behind an impregnable serve game that included 18 aces and was not broken once.
Tiafoe took control after dominating the decisive tie-breaks, including a 7/0 second set win.
Back-to-back aces took him to a 5-0 lead before a beautiful cut backhand gave him six points to a two-set lead.
“Things started to happen,” Tiafoe said. “It was honestly a laughable tiebreaker. You can’t make this up.”
Tiafoe will face Spanish third seed Carlos Alcaraz or Jannik Sinner in Friday’s semifinals.
“I’ll sit back and let them fight all night, I hope,” Tiafoe said.
“Both are great players. It’s going to be great tennis. I think they’ll be Grand Slam champions when they finish their careers for sure.”