Frances Tiafoe, on behalf of Arthur Ashe | Sports

Frances Tiafoe (Hyattsville, USA; 24 years old) is a unique and smiling guy, friendly in the dressing room and relaxed in communication. Also engaged. Far from the usual profile of the professional, from a rich background or privileged situation, the American has completed a completely unusual path towards the elite. Today, his name shines in the semi-finals in New York, but behind the limelight and publicity – his first time in the top 20 on the circuit – is a story against the tide born in the small warehouse where father found accommodation while working 24-hour shifts at Washington club where he worked.

The man and his wife landed in the United States in the 1980s fleeing the civil war in Sierra Leone. Upon landing, she was on night shifts and he was doing maintenance work. The incompatibility of plans and economic difficulties meant that the father often spent the night in that warehouse where he slept on a massage table. He was the only black employee. On many occasions he was accompanied by the two twins, Franklin and Frances, the latter of these children being soon seen to have exceptional tennis skills.

“Obviously I wasn’t a rich kid and I didn’t have the opportunities other people had,” he told CNN. “But I could play tennis for free and I love this sport. None of that stopped me from dreaming big,” assesses the tennis player, quoted on Friday (1:00, Eurosport) with Carlos Alcaraz.

His talent quickly caught the attention of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), which promoted a career that was in flight and now reaches its peak in New York, where Tiafoe will play the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time and prove himself. . “I have nothing to prove, I’m here to enjoy myself,” he said after knocking out Rafael Nadal in the last 16 with an early warning: “I’m going to go for him.” The 24-year-old North American fulfilled the threat and in the quarter-finals he also got rid of the Russian Andrei Rublev (7-6(3), 7-6(0) and 6-4 and put his mark on the tournament. .

Spades down, hands up

“Today is the happiest day of my life,” he said after becoming the first black player to reach the penultimate round of the tournament since Arthur Ashe. His predecessor did so in the 1972 edition and left a deep mark in his defense of social rights – he was arrested several times – and his campaign against Apartheid in South Africa. He was also named ATP Player of the Year in 1975 and won three majors: the US Open in 1968, the Australian Open in 1970 and Wimbledon in 1975.

Try to follow in the footsteps of Tiafoe, which means in the fight against racism. “Ashe is my idol,” says the American, aware that he can now play a fundamental role. “Every time I win, I try to convey the message that anything is possible. At the end of the day, I love that more black people are playing tennis because of me. I’m going to help as many people as I can because I feel it’s my duty,” he says before storming back into the New York factory, as large as any that bears its name.

In 2020, he received the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award after wearing Black Lives Matter masks and promoting the campaign with his girlfriend. Spades down, hands up (Raquetas Abajo, Manos Arriba), where he brought the black tennis community together for an activism.

On the other hand, Tiafoe is the great hope of depressed tennis, which is in the United States, which has been sustained thanks to the success of Serena Williams in the last two decades, but as a man is going through a more than significant drought. Far, far away are the days of Jimmy Connors or John McEnroe, and likewise those of Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi. The last player to raise a major it was Andy Roddick, the 2003 US Open champion; The Texan is also the last in the semifinals (2006).

Tiafoe is therefore the burning nail on which USTA representatives are clinging, who have been watching with concern at the stagnation of a talent who entered the circuit with great energy, but has not finished breaking. In his catalog there is only one minor title (Delray Beach in 2018) and on the big stage he was diluted until now like sugar. His limits were marked by the quarters he signed at the 2019 Australian Open. However, at the hands of former player Wayne Ferreira, his tennis has gained ground and inspiration.

Less chocolate, more ripe

“He was very fond of sweets, chocolates and cookies. He ate at unusual times. He needed a bit of guidance and I think he improved a lot thanks to that management,” explained the coach recently. “Honestly, when I came I wasn’t mentally prepared or mature enough. But I have grown and I have a great team around me,” he says.

Tiafoe will have a chance to restore Ashe’s spirit today. He will face Alcaraz, who is a big rival. “Everyone knows the level of tennis Tiafoe is playing at.” He comes from beating Rafa and Rublev and he plays magnificently. It will be a very complicated but exciting game,” points out the Spaniard, who has only faced him once. It was last year, on the clay of Barcelona. In the afternoon at the Godó facility, Tiafoe took the cat to the lake.

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