(NEW YORK) — With an impressive and powerful performance at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens on Wednesday, Frances Tiafoe is smashing his way through the U.S. Open tournament, proving it’s his time to shine — and making history in the process.
Tiafoe’s fast and furious play saw him finish his latest match with 18 aces and a roaring crowd as he defeated the No. 9-seeded Andrey Rublev in straight sets 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-0), 6-4 in the men’s quarterfinal. The 24-year-old advances to the semifinals, ending a 16-year drought for American men’s tennis in the U.S. Open semifinals.
The last time an American men’s tennis player reached the semifinals was Andy Roddick in 2006. (Roddick made it to the finals but was defeated by Roger Federer.) Following two significant upsets in the tournament so far, Tiafoe is also the first Black man from the U.S. to reach the semifinals since Arthur Ashe in 1972.
“The training is paying off,” Tiafoe said during a post-match interview with ESPN. “I’ve been putting in the time, and it’s starting to show.”
Tiafoe, wearing Serena Williams’ GOAT sweatshirt following his dominating defeat, is proof that the Williams sisters’ impact goes far beyond the next generation of Black female tennis players, but also has an inspiring effect on young Black men, as well.
Tiafoe, currently the No. 22 seed, had a shocking and emotional upset against the No. 2-ranked superstar Rafel Nadal, abruptly ending the veteran’s run in the fourth round on Monday.
But the journey to center court was no small feat for the 24-year-old.
A son of Sierra Leone immigrants who fled home from a war in the 90s and laid roots In Maryland, Tiafoe’s father worked as a maintenance man at the College Park’s Junior Tennis Champions Center in Maryland, converting an office into a home for Frances and his twin brother Franklin. This gave Frances access to the tennis facility and coaches — a place where Frances found his opportunity to play and love the sport.
Now a fan favorite, Tiafoe awaits his next opponent, either Jannik Sinner or Carlos Alcaraz; they are set to face off later Wednesday evening, and one will meet him at center court in the first major Grand Slam semifinal of his career.
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