Tennis player Frances Tiafoe served up his biggest win yet on Monday when he defeated 22-time Grand Slam champ Rafael Nadal. Now, the Hyattsville, Maryland, native advances to the U.S. Open quarterfinals.
The win was a major upset at the U.S. Open because Tiafoe is seeded 22nd and Rafael Nadal is the No. 2 seed. For Tiafoe though, the win is part of a dream that’s been years in the making.
“I’m beyond happy, I’m almost in tears, I can’t believe it, can’t believe it,” Tiafoe said after the match.
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His tennis journey began in College Park, Maryland, at the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC).
His parents emigrated to the U.S. from Sierra Leone in the 1990s. His dad worked at the tennis center as a custodian. Money was so tight, the family slept in a spare room there. He grew up on the court.
“It’s a lifestyle. I’ve been doing it all my life so far. It means a lot to me,” Tiafoe said.
Early on, coaches knew he was someone special. At just 14 years old, he was ranked No. 1 in the world for his age group.
“I just want it so much more than they do. Every time I step on the court it’s like, I’m here to just work as hard as I can,” Tiafoe said.
His hard work is paying off at the U.S. Open.
“We are so happy right now. You know, we cannot wait 'til Sunday... and then we all can celebrate,” former coach Komi Akli told News4.
Sunday marks the finals in the U.S. Open, but he’ll have to win twice more to get there. Tiafoe has only been to a grand slam quarterfinal once before. He went to the 2019 Australian Open and he lost to Nadal.
The young players at JTCC said they have faith their friend can pull off a win.
“He inspires us to, I guess to work hard and be as good as him hopefully one day,” tennis player Stefan Regalia said.
“He’s taught me to always strive for greatness, to never settle for less,” tennis player Ameera Malik said.
Tiafoe’s U.S. Open quarterfinal is Wednesday at 1 p.m. He'll face off against No. 9 seed Andrey Rublev.