The legend of Frances Tiafoe continues to grow.
Tiafoe, a 24-year-old professional tennis player from Maryland, spent some nights as a child sleeping in a tennis club where his father was the janitor. His parents are Sierra Leone immigrants, and Tiafoe learned the sport by using discarded rackets at the club he sometimes slept in. On Sept. 5, now ranked the No. 22 player in the world, Tiafoe defeated the No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the US Open. It was Nadal’s first loss in over 22 matches. Nadal, 36, is one of the greatest male tennis players to ever live.
“For a while there, I was like, ‘Sheesh.’ You see all these young guys get Rafael, [Roger Federer] and Novak [Djokovic],” Tiafoe said in his post-match press conference. “Am I ever going to be able to say I beat one of them? Today, I was like, ‘Nah. I’m going to do that.’ So now, it’s something to tell the kids and grandkids that I beat Rafa. Hopefully, I never play him again. Yeah, I hope I can end that matchup with a win.”
The first people Tiafoe shouted out after the win were his loved ones, which included his parents and girlfriend.
“They’ve seen me have big wins, but to beat those Mount Rushmore guys for them, I couldn’t have imagined what was going through the back of their heads,” he said. “They’re going to remember today for the rest of their lives.”
Tiafoe said growing up around the tennis club, he was also inspired by Venus and Serena Williams and their championship-winning play. His father told Tiafoe and his twin brother they could earn tennis scholarships to attend college, but Tiafoe knew he had the chance to change his family’s lives as a professional.
“Congrats, young King,” LeBron James tweeted following Tiafoe’s win. “You earned it!! Keep going!”
“BIG FOEEEEE,” Coco Gauff tweeted after his win. The 18-year-old Black tennis star is in the quarterfinal herself in the women’s bracket.
On Sept. 7, Tiafoe will face fellow 24-year-old and No. 9-ranked Andrey Rublev in the US Open quarterfinal at 1 p.m. ET.