Two more wins at the US Open, and Frances Tiafoe could become only the second African-American to be hailed as champion on the Arthur Ashe Stadium since the great Ashe himself made men’s tennis history 54 years ago.
This is wild. This is crazy, I had the biggest win of my life 24 hours ago and coming out and getting another big win….. It’s tough to turn the page, but I did and now I’m in the semi Frances Tiafoe
Should Tiafoe realise his dream of emulating his hero, he hopes it will inspire the next generation of Black tennis players as the 24-year-old has himself risen in stature in the American consciousness following his dramatic quarter final win over Spain’s four-time champion Rafa Nadal, and now ousting the ninth seed from Moscow Andrey Rublev 7-6(3) 7-6(0) 6-4 to reach the semis in what was a very assured performance.
“Every time I win, I just want to inspire a bunch of people to just know that anything is possible,” Tiafoe, the 22nd seed said.
“At the end of the day I love that because of Frances Tiafoe there is a lot of people of colour playing tennis.
“That’s obviously a goal for me. That’s why I’m out here trying pretty hard.”
Tiafoe was introduced to the sport at an early age, after his father, who moved to the US to escape a civil war in Sierra Leone in the early 90s, took a job as a live-in caretaker at a tennis training facility in Maryland, where he soaked up tennis.
“It was my life. The only thing I really watched growing up was Tennis Channel. I mean, you end up just falling in love with it,” he admitted.
Tiafoe has certainly raised the hopes of American fans that he can become the first home player since Andy Roddick in 2003, to lift the trophy.
And he has certainly responded to their vocal support as he makes his debut in a grand slam semi-final.
“I just love playing in front of packed people,” Tiafoe revealed. “I love to show the world what I can do…To see how many people I can get behind me. Means a lot.”
He was virtually mobbed on the concourse after the match as he conducted post-match television interviews.
“That’s love, man,” Tiafoe said later. “I really appreciate that. You know, that stuff gets me emotional, for sure.
“Seeing people like screaming your name, just loving what you’re doing. That’s awesome. That’s what it’s all about.
“Everyone loves a Cinderella story. (I’m) just trying to make one.”
While Tiafoe was never broken throughout the match saving all four break points he faced, it was his serve which basically propelled him through to the last four in what was a reasonably tight contest.
In the two tie-breaks played, Tiafoe was dominant dropping just three points to win the first and none in the second where two consecutive aces set gave him a 5-0 lead and a sliced backhand provided him with set point.
“It was honestly a laughable tiebreaker. You can’t make that up,” Tiafoe commented after his two-hour, 15-minute triumph.
Overall Tiafoe could hardly contain his delight.
“This is wild. This is crazy,” he said in his on-court interview. “I had the biggest win of my life 24 hours ago and coming out and getting another big win… Andrey’s a hell of a player, and to back it up, that’s huge. It’s tough to turn the page, but I did and now I’m in the semis.
“I feel so at home on courts like this. This court is unbelievable. [The crowd] gets so far behind me, I want to play, I want to give my best. I always find a way somehow on this court, I always play some great tennis and I have been. Let’s enjoy this, we’ve got two more.”
Prior to Wednesday, Tiafoe’s best result at a Grand Slam was a quarter final appearance at the Australian Open in 2019.