US Open 2022 – Can Frances Tiafoe be the first American man to win the US Open in nearly 20 years?


NEW YORK — The wristband on Frances Tiafoe’s racket hand reads “Believe. Why Not Me.”

After defeating Rafael Nadal and Andrey Rublev in entrance of packed stadiums, many extra have begun to imagine that his time would possibly be now.

Perhaps Tiafoe will be the one who ends the 19-12 months drought for a U.S. males’s singles champion at the US Open.

Watching him play is a delight: the approach he sprints again after changeovers, his eye-catching model of play, the great array of photographs, his ruthless serve. And even the sheer carnage of the scene behind his chair at the finish of the match, garments and footwear strewn throughout the place.

“My player bank is diabolical. Yeah, it’s getting the job done, so who cares right now?” Tiafoe mentioned after his match in opposition to Rublev.

And all that is all whipped up together with his unbelievable backstory and infectious persona.

“Hopefully there’ll be a movie about him one day,” his coach Wayne Ferreira mentioned after the win over Rublev.

Born in Maryland, the 24-12 months-outdated is the son of immigrants who moved to the U.S. in the Nineties from struggle-torn Sierra Leone. His dad, Constant, labored on the building of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in Washington, D.C. Constant ended up with the job of caretaker, and was given a room there the place his boys — Frances and his twin brother, Franklin — would sleep some nights as their mother, Alphina, labored double shifts as a nurse.

“It wasn’t supposed to be anything like this,” Tiafoe mentioned earlier this week. “Once we got in the game of tennis, my dad was like, ‘It would be awesome if you guys can use this as a full scholarship to school.’ We couldn’t afford a university, so use the game of tennis.”

Nine years in the past in 2013 he received the Orange Bowl — a junior event that Roger Federer, Jim Courier, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg have all received as properly.

Another winner there was Andy Roddick — the man whose footsteps Tiafoe is now treading in at Flushing Meadows. Tiafoe’s win over Rublev made him the youngest American semifinalist since Roddick in 2006. Roddick was additionally the final American man to win the US Open, in 2003.

But that is Tiafoe’s path, and he is doing it his approach, motivated by the goals of success he had as a teenager. He calls the large three in males’s tennis the “Mount Rushmore guys,” nevertheless it was Serena and Venus Williams who caught his creativeness and have remained his idols. He has worn a Serena GOAT hoodie to stroll on to the court docket in his previous two matches.

“At that time watching Serena and Venus [Williams] play finals of Grand Slams, when I was super young, I was like, ‘How cool would it be to play Wimbledon, to play on Arthur Ashe and stuff like that?'” Tiafoe mentioned after his win in opposition to Nadal. Now he is the first Black American man to attain the US Open semifinals since Ashe himself did in 1972.

And when he takes heart stage on Friday to play Carlos Alcaraz, he’ll have the whole place behind him.

This is a run that has lengthy been hinted at however by no means realized. His greatest end at an ATP 1000 event was a quarterfinal again in 2019 at Miami. His earlier greatest run at a Grand Slam was the quarterfinals of the Australian Open that very same 12 months. There was the skill, however the outcomes weren’t matching up.

“We have been working a lot in the last couple of months on the mental side, about trying to deal with the big, important situations,” Ferreira mentioned after the win over Rublev. “He’s achieved them exceptionally well. The ball striking has been good for the last couple of months. That’s been something that’s been good for us. It’s just finishing off matches.”

Ferreira additionally referenced how they labored on his diet. “He liked a lot of candy and chocolates and cookies,” Ferreira mentioned. “He’d eat at unusual times. He missed breakfast a lot. Didn’t really have a good set of times on when to eat before matches, what to eat after matches. You need a little guidance on that side, and he’s done well on that side of it.”

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Here at the US Open, Tiafoe hasn’t eaten out in a restaurant as soon as, as a substitute ordering in from Morton’s Steakhouse.

They’ve modified their coaching so the observe periods are shorter, cellphones are banned and Tiafoe runs with out music to hone his focus.

“I think during that time the cameras weren’t on me, attention wasn’t on me, I was able to just kind of get better and do my own thing,” Tiafoe mentioned after Rublev match. “I stopped trying to be the guy. Like when things were going to happen, it was going to happen. I was fine with it. I was comfortable with myself. Yeah, now, it’s all come into fruition.”

Tiafoe’s US Open event began out on Court 17 with a first-spherical win over Marcos Giron. Six days later — having seen off Jason Kubler and Diego Schwartzman — he was on Ashe taking part in Nadal.

After 3 hours and 34 minutes, he bested him. That defeat had wider ramifications for the males’s title, with Karen Khachanov saying after his win over Nick Kyrgios that Tiafoe’s triumph meant the relaxation noticed it as an “opportunity to take the trophy” with one in all the GOATs dispatched.

But it is one factor seeing the favourite being knocked out, and one other being the participant who managed it and processing all the things that comes with it.

Another one in all his wristbands reads “Be Your Own GOAT.” That win over Nadal was a milestone second for Tiafoe, after which after the match, he noticed a tweet from LeBron James praising him. “Man, I was losing it in the locker room,” Tiafoe mentioned. “Bro, I was going crazy. Yeah, I mean, that’s my guy. So to see him post that, I was like, ‘Do I retweet it as soon as he sent it?’ I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to be cool and act like I didn’t see it and then retweet it three hours later.'”

Tiafoe had a sleepless night time after that match.

“The difficulty is Rafa has been the best player he’s ever beaten,” Ferreira mentioned. “To go from that and play two days later is always very, very difficult. So we tried really hard to get him to enjoy the moment but try to move on.”

They centered on dwelling in the second. After the win over Rublev, Tiafoe raised his fingers to the closed roof of Ashe, did a bit dance after which went over to give Bradley Beal, one other one in all his basketball heroes, a hug. Beal, who performs for Tiafoe’s hometown Washington Wizards, was entrance row in the greatest seat in the home to see America’s sports activities star.

Tiafoe then seemed over to his field. He noticed his father standing immobile in shocked pleasure, and as they made eye contact, Constant raised his fingers to the roof, Alphina hugged his girlfriend Ayan Broomfield, whereas all people and anyone stood in collective joyful disbelief with Ferreira in the midst of it.

But in opposition to Rublev, all of it got here collectively for Tiafoe. “It was honestly a laughable tiebreaker,” Tiafoe mentioned. “You can’t make that up.”

With Tiafoe simply two matches away from tennis immortality, there is not any hazard of getting carried away. “There is a lot of great players that haven’t had a great career by not winning anything,” Ferreira mentioned. “For me it’s about winning. I think he needs to win. That comes down to success by winning and victory.”

Tiafoe will once more attempt to press the reset button forward of the semifinal. He does not need to be one other story of a close to-miss.

“I love to show the world what I can do,” Tiafoe mentioned. “Then it makes me feel good when people appreciate how hard you’re trying out there and appreciate good tennis, especially where I came from. To see how many people I can get behind me. Means a lot.

“If you might be actually, actually captivated with one thing, I feel something can occur, and being simply obsessive about it. Right now I’m simply actually obsessive about tennis, and I need to see how far I can go along with this factor.”

He’ll listen to his mother’s advice, which she gives him before every match — play the man, not the name. And he’ll remember the motto on his wrist.

“[I] take a look at that: Yeah, why not me? You put the time in, so why not me? Believe in your self, it is so large,” Tiafoe said. “You have to imagine in your self earlier than anyone else does.”

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