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Francis Tiafoe has the opportunity to further his already historic run this evening as the first Black American man to reach the US Open semifinals since Arthur Ashe himself did in 1972.
Born in Maryland, the 24-year-old is the son of immigrants who moved to the U.S. in the 1990s from war-torn Sierra Leone. His dad, Constant, worked on the construction of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in Washington, D.C. Constant ended up with the job of caretaker, and was given a room there where his boys — Frances and his twin brother, Franklin — would sleep some nights as their mom, Alphina, worked double shifts as a nurse.
On Wednesday, Tiafoe’s three-set win over Andrey Rublev made him the youngest American semifinalist since Roddick in 2006. Inspired by the greats before him, Tiafoe has worn a Serena GOAT hoodie to walk on to the court in his past two matches.
Tiafoe’s entire life is coming full circle in real-time. When speaking of his childhood, he said, “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 said after his win against living tennis legend Rafael Nadal.
As a tennis veteran always looking for ways to improve, Tiafoe decided to switch things up for this year’s US Open. He changed his diet and what times to eat, along with honing in on his mental focus, and its positive effects have become quickly apparent.
When speaking of a wristband he wore on his racket hand that reads: “Believe. Why Not Me.” Tiafoe says, “[I] look at that: Yeah, why not me? You put the time in, so why not me? Believe in yourself, it’s so big,” Tiafoe said. “You have to believe in yourself before anybody else does.”
As the currently ranked #22 in the world, Francis Tiafoe will face Spain’s #3 Carlos Alcaraz Friday at 7 p.m. EST. on ESPN.