How Frances Tiafoe went from sleeping at a tennis center to the US Open semifinals
If you’re a tennis fan with a soft spot for Frances Tiafoe, prepare to be wooed at this year’s U.S. Open. The 18-year-old has always been a wild card among the tennis world’s best, with an unassuming persona. The son of a former player, Tiafoe has overcome major obstacles and, at this juncture, his rise to No. 2 is an undeniable testament to how hard he has worked, both physically and mentally, to get to this high rung on the world’s tennis ladder.
Born in the UK to a Jamaican father and Canadian mother, Tiafoe was one of 12 siblings to move with his mother to the United Kingdom in the early part of the 19th century. As a result, he grew up surrounded by nature, but also surrounded by culture. Though Tiafoe was an only child, he was given a unique upbringing by his parents: “They exposed [Frances] to many different influences, including music, art, literature — all things that she’s been able to draw on in her life.”
As a youngster, Tiafoe spent a lot of time playing sports, even taking up tennis. But his father told him to spend his nights in bed while he was out playing basketball. That advice, he said, worked on a lot of people. “If you spend your whole life playing sports, you need to be a bit more active,” he said. “You need to spend time in bed instead of going out to the courts.”
Tiafoe would spend his days at the tennis center, taking swimming lessons, doing aerobics, playing basketball and occasionally playing tennis with his father, who was the coach. Despite living in the middle of a country with no public tennis courts, his father continued to play and would teach him new techniques for hitting his forehand. By the time Tiafoe was in the first grade, he was regularly winning the championship of the school tennis league.
“He was the best player in the school, and he would bring home trophies