How Frances Tiafoe went from sleeping at a tennis center to the US Open semifinals
JOHANNESBURG — From a place in the heart of Johannesburg’s inner city where you’d hear gunshots at night to a place where you’d hear laughter on a sunny day, Tiafoe was always one step ahead.
He wasn’t one to waste time and one of the many qualities that made him one of tennis’ more enigmatic characters was that he wasn’t always a happy person. While he was a young teen and came from a tough background in his home country, there was always something good about his personality.
And that’s when his life took an incredible turn. Tiafoe found a home in South Africa and made a name for himself there at the age of 14 in the early 2000s. He became the first South African male to complete Grand Slams (Australian Open, French Open) at the age of 15.
He also became a role model to many people and was known to have a big heart for helping his fellow South Africans. The boyish 6-foot 2-inch frame always wore a smile on his face, never an angry one, and always wore his heart on his sleeve.
Tiafoe made his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the age of 17 and came to the top as one of the dominant players on tour. But he had a long way to go before becoming a global star.
He was struggling with life and relationships when he met his partner, Lizzie, at a tennis club in 2014. They married in February 2016 and had two daughters together.
It changed everything.
From his first singles match at the 2016 New York Open to his US Open semifinal, Tiafoe was a different player in 2017. With the way he was played, he might have had a chance for a grand final. He didn’t.
The following year, he bounced back and reached his first Wimbledon semi-final, defeating Sam Querrey in the fourth round and defending champion Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals, but he wasn’t able to come back again.
Tiafoe was back at No. 4 when