Francis Tiafoe says he hopes to inspire a new generation of black tennis players after coming within two wins of becoming the first African-American in 54 years to win the US Open.
The 24-year-old lit up this year’s championships after a massive killing spree saw him knock out Rafael Nadal before Wednesday’s quarter-final demolition of Russian ninth seed Andrey Rublev.
Tiafoe’s emphatic 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/0), 6-4 victory over Rublev left the 22nd seed on course to become the first black player to win the Open since Arthur Ashe in 1968.
Tiafoe wants his performances in New York to leave a lasting mark on US 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 out here trying pretty hard.”
Tiafoe was introduced to tennis at a young age after his father, who moved to the US to escape the civil war in Sierra Leone in the early 1990s, took a job as a lifeguard at a tennis training facility in Maryland.
“I was playing hours and hours of tennis throughout the game, enjoying the game, watching the match,” Tiafoe said.
“It was my life. The only thing I really watched growing up was the Tennis Channel. I mean, eventually you just fall in love with it.”
Prior to Wednesday, Tiafoe’s best Grand Slam result was a quarter-final appearance at the 2019 Australian Open.
– “The Cinderella Story” –
But after beating Nadal on Monday and taking care of Rublev on Wednesday, Tiafoe has American fans daring to dream that he can go all the way to win a maiden Slam.
“I love playing in front of a full crowd,” Tiafoe said. “I love showing people what I can do…Seeing how many people I can get behind me. It means a lot.”
Huge crowds of well-wishers mobbed Tiafoe as he gave televised interviews after the match on the court at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center on Wednesday.
“That’s love, man,” Tiafoe later said. “I appreciate it a lot. You know, this thing excites me, for sure.
“Seeing people like screaming your name, just loving what you’re doing. This is awesome. That’s the point.
“Everybody loves a Cinderella story. (I’m) just trying to make it up.”
Against Rublev on Wednesday, Tiafoe cruised to victory on the back of an unassailable service game that included 18 aces and was not broken once.
Tiafoe took control after dominating the deciding tiebreaks, including a 7-0 win in the second set break.
Back-to-back aces gave him a 5-0 lead before a beautiful sliced backhand gave him six points for a two-set lead.
“Things just started happening,” Tiafoe said. “It was honestly a ridiculous tiebreaker. You can’t make it up.”
Tiafoe will face either Spain’s third-seeded Carlos Alcaraz or Jannik Siner in Friday’s semifinals.
“I’m going to sit back and let them fight all night, hopefully,” Tiafoe said.
“They’re both great players. It’s going to be great tennis. I think they’re going to be Grand Slam champions when they play their careers, for sure.”