As Frances Tiafoe takes his place on the world stage, his first tennis academy is cheering him on from Prince George's County, Maryland.
Tiafoe pulled off a stunning upset at Wimbledon 2021 on Monday, beating top-five player Stefanos Tsitsipas. Then, on Wednesday, he won his second-round match.
The loudest cheers likely came from thousands of miles away where Tiafoe got his start: the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park.
"I was so proud of him. I’m so happy to be, like, one of his coaches," said Komi Akli, who once coached Tiafoe.
Akli said he’s always been impressed by how Tiafoe can bounce back in tough times.
"When he loses, he just - he just don’t care, he just want to play again. You know, he want to play again. He want to challenge that person again," Akli said.
That hard work ethic has taken Tiafoe and his family far. His dad was a custodian at the tennis center, and the the family once slept in a storage room there.
Even as Tiafoe's career reaches new heights, players at the tennis center say
The players say Tiafoe always makes time to give them advice.
"He’s like you have to make sure you enjoy all the time you have on court, and he’s also told me there are gonna be ups and downs. Not everything’s gonna be perfect, but the most important thing is just to have fun," player Robin Montgomery said.
Tiafoe's passion is obvious on TV. He’s a big fan of flexing and flashing his signature smile.
"He’s having fun every time he wins. He always tries to show his muscle, you know, so everybody loves him," Akli said.
"It’s pretty incredible and motivating, knowing that it could be anyone here that could be the next pro," player Jason Daly said.
Tiafoe is not the only product of the training center at Wimbledon. Dennis Kudla, an Arlington native, is on to the third round as well.