NEW YORK. Francis Tiafoe’s run to the semi-finals of the US Open is primarily due to Tiafoe himself, a 24-year-old Maryland native who took up tennis because his father was a janitor at a junior training center, a player who never won. match after the fourth round at the Grand Slams so far, who holds one ATP career title and a career record under .500, and whose rating has ranged from 24 to 74 over the last two seasons.
“A Cinderella Story,” as he puts it.
Tiafoe’s story, which already includes defeating 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal on his way to his matchup with Spain’s No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz to reach the final, also goes much further.
Now this is a significant step forward for American men’s tennis, which can help develop this sport in the future.
Tiafoe became the first American to reach the Flushing Meadows semi-finals since Andy Roddick 16 years ago. He has a chance to give the country its first men’s Slam champion since Roddick in New York 19 years ago.
If he can get past Alcaraz – the other men’s semi-final – No. 5 Kasper Ruud of Norway against No. 27 Karen Khachanov of Russia – Tiafoe will be the first black U.S. to make it to a major final since MaliWai Washington came in second. at Wimbledon in 1996.
“American men’s tennis has been going through hard times for a couple of decades now. Fighting against the standard we have set for ourselves: Grand Slam champions and Grand Slam finals,” Washington said in a telephone interview. “This hasn’t happened to men in years.”
The bar was set high by the success of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe – the last African American to reach the semi-finals of the US Open in 1972, and the man for whom the main stadium of the tournament is the name – and before that Don Budge and Bill Tilden. Thanks to the Williams sisters and other recent major champion or runner-up players such as Sloane Stevens, Madison Keys, Sofia Kenin and Danielle Collins, American women’s tennis has been around long before the days of Chris Evert and Billie Jean. King.
“Absolutely helps the US Open to have U.S. men’s and women’s champions,” tournament director Stacey Allaster said. “We had the best result of all time among women. And obviously, in the men’s section, we’ve had amazing American champions, from Pete and Andre to Andy. But it was a long time ago”.
As Serena Williams prepared to retire from her playing days, current athletes such as Tiafoe, 18-year-old Coco Gauff and others spoke during the US Open about the impact she and her sister Venus had on their careers.
Gauff said she was in what she called a “predominantly white sport” because she “had seen someone like me dominate the game.”
The importance of representation cannot be overestimated.
“What Francis is doing now inspires me,” Washington said. “And I hope he inspires young players — not just blacks, but whites, Hispanics, Asians. Of course, due to his background and skin color, this will have a certain impact on young black players and especially on young black boys. And I hope it makes them think, “OK, I’ve been playing tennis for years.” It inspires me to keep going.” Or: “I’ve never played tennis before. It inspires me to try.”
Tiafoe’s on-court enthusiasm — “which you see more often in basketball,” Washington said — and off-court personality could help bring youth to tennis.
As well as social media, which didn’t exist during Washington’s game days.
“I don’t know if you’ll ever really know the impact you’re having on the next generation, until maybe years later someone says, ‘Hey, I started playing tennis because I remember like watching you at Wimbledon.” said Washington, whose Jacksonville, Florida-based youth foundation offers afterschool and summer programs. “We’re always trying to find a diverse group of players, trying to find the next player and maybe looking for that next player in non-traditional places.”
Martin Blackman, head of the US Tennis Association’s player development program, says Tiafoe “resonates with and is relevant to the culture. It represents a huge opportunity to make tennis “cooler”.
Tiafoe is not shy about the idea that he can show the way to others.
“He wants to be a role model,” said his coach, Wayne Ferreira. “I always tell him, ‘If you want to be a role model, you have to win tennis matches.’ … If he can win this tournament, he can be an inspiration to many children.”
Tiafoe was 6 years old when he first crossed paths with Blackman, who at the time was a coach at the Junior Champions Center in College Park, Maryland, where little Francis and his twin brother lived while his dad worked.
“He watched group lessons, he watched private lessons, he hit the wall,” Blackman said.
Blackman sees what Tiafoe is doing as the result of a process started over a decade ago to try and grow future champions.
Blackman sees “healthy peer pressure” in a group of American men about the same age as Tiafoe who have worked their way through the ranks and rankings together, including Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka and Tommy Paul.
“We want the same dynamics as in the early 90s with Pete, Andre, Jim Courier and Michael Chang,” Blackman said. “This is another part of why Francis’ breakthrough is so important.”
PARMA, Italy. Sara Sorribes Tormo beat second-place Martina Trevisan 7-5, 6-0 in the first round of the Parma Ladies Open, marking the third straight first round loss for the French Open semi-finalist this year.
Third seed Irina-Kamelia Begu took the lead when Victoria Tomova retired with Begu leading 7-5, 5-1.
Danka Kovinic defeated Ocean Dodin 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 and will next face 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stevens.
Also on the red clay courts, Egypt’s Mayar Sheriff knocked out fifth-seeded Anna Bondar, 7-5, 6-4; Elisabetta Cocciaretto defeated No. 7 Nuria Parrisas Diaz 7-5, 6-1; and Italian wild card Matilda Paoletti earned her first tour-level win by defeating Romanian Gabriela Li 6-4, 3-6, 6-0.
SAN DIEGO — Brandon Nakashima earned his first ATP Tour victory in his hometown by defeating friend and fellow Southern Californian Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-4 in the San Diego Open final.
“It’s super special that you dream of, but having it happen in my hometown with all my friends and family is a moment I’ll never forget,” said Nakashima, who has competed twice in the finals. “Hopefully there are many more moments like this ahead.”
Nakashima, a 21-year-old who grew up in San Diego and trained extensively at the venue as a junior, won the first set in just 30 minutes. The second set, filled with long draws, lasted almost an hour.
Chiron, the No. 5 seed and former NCAA title holder from UCLA, was unable to fend off Nakashima’s persistent ground shots and accurate pitches. Nakashima had eight aces, six in the first set.
Serving 5-4 in the second set, Nakashima scored two game-deciding points when Chiron landed a light volley into the net, followed by Nakashima’s ace on the second serve.
He earned $93,090, about half of what he earned for reaching the third round of the US Open in early September.
Nakashima, ranked 69th on the ATP Tour, moved up to 48th, his highest ranking in almost three years of the tour. Despite the loss, Chiron went from 58 to 53.
Not only did an American win the singles title, but the doubles title also went to an American duo as second seed Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Whitrow defeated Aussies Jason Kubler and Luke Saville 7-6(5), 6-2.
The $612,000 event took place at the Barnes Tennis Center, where the $757,900 WTA 500 Open San Diego Open will take place October 8-16. 1 Igoy Svyatek.