How Frances Tiafoe went from sleeping at a tennis center to the US Open semifinals as a top-10 player
I’ve written about Frances Tiafoe and the US Open before, but his story is so much more dramatic.
After Tiafoe was just a teenager, he was introduced to the tennis world during his junior days at the USTA Virginia Key Center. For a young, black player, that’s pretty much unheard of. He was one of the four members of the USTA’s first ever junior national team, which played a series of exhibition matches in the spring of 2007.
What he did as a junior tennis player was remarkable. By the time he reached the age of 17, Tiafoe was one of the best junior tennis players in the world.
His game took shape in the tennis centers, which were then emerging as a place where kids would go for workouts, learn skills, and have fun. Tiafoe was there a lot.
After a while, he became the center’s tennis partner, and his senior year, he earned a varsity letter in tennis.
In the fall of 2013, he moved to nearby Bradenton, where he’s lived ever since. The USTA and other tennis organizations have long recognized Tiafoe as one of the brightest players.
Tiafoe, now 18, has played for Team USA in the junior and senior divisions in the US Open this summer, finishing in the top 10 of both. He’s also played the junior men’s event in Washington, DC, where he beat Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer in the first round before losing to eventual champion Marin Cilic in the next round.
But there’s even more to Tiafoe’s story. During his junior days, he did something that made him a national hero. That story, and the events that preceded it, will form an important part of this season’s US Open story.