Frances Tiafoe’s tennis career is not just a sport between the lines, but a game for life.
Tiafoe, only 20 years old, has a desire to do big things with the platform his success creates. Unlike most 20-year-olds, he has already earned over a million dollars in prize money, but he is not interested in the latest car, video game, or vacation. He simply wants to improve his family’s life. Tiafoe told the press at Wimbledon about an early promise he made to his family.
“Look, I’m going to change everybody’s life,” he said. “I’m going to buy you all a house. I’m going to do X, Y, and Z and everybody’s going to live nice at the end of my career and no one is going to have to worry about anything.”
Backgrounds like Tiafoe’s are often lost in the hustle and bustle of the tennis calendar. We see players flying from continent to continent, but often the sacrifices of the families at home remain unknown. The stereotypes around tennis make it seem as though all players come from affluent backgrounds… unless the country of origin is very small or assumed to be unknown to viewers. Tiafoe helps to remind Americans that professional tennis truly is a game for all. While America debates its treatment and the merits of other cultures immigrating to the United States, it is important to highlight the fact that a first-generation American leads the star-spangled group of ATP players in overall wins for 2018. It is also important to see Tiafoe be embraced by media outlets as fully “American,” not in a context of otherness that players such as the Williams sisters experienced.
Once again, tennis is a game for all. One just has to choose it.
“There was no Plan B because that just distracts you from Plan A,” Tiafoe said. “I had a vision and I wanted it every day.”
Tiafoe’s vision has now successfully landed him in the third round for the first time at a major tournament. His next opponent will be Karen Khachanov, who defeated Marcos Baghdatis in five sets on Thursday. With all the strides he has made this year, it truly does seem as though Tiafoe is in his junior year of “la Universidad de ATP World Tour.” In his third year as a professional Tiafoe had a slow start to his season, losing in the first round of the Australian Open. Since then he has managed to reach finals on hardcourts and clay, and as he has proven this week, he is swiftly improving on grass.
Tiafoe’s first title on hardcourts at Delray Beach gave him the distinction of being the youngest American title winner since Andy Roddick. His finalist appearance at the Estoril Open on clay made him the youngest American finalist on European clay since Andre Agassi in 1990. Next he hopes to be the youngest American participant in the fourth round at Wimbledon — younger than Pete Sampras.
Tiafoe wants to be the future of American tennis. In the words of the young man on the come-up, we just have to “sit back and wait for it.”
Source: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America